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Full text of "CMH Pub 7-7-1 The Siegfried Line Campaign"

THE SIEGFRIED LINE 
CAMPAIGN 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



The European Theater of Operations 

THE SIEGFRIED LINE 
CAMPAIGN 



Charles B. MacDonald 




(ENTER OF M1UTARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON D.C., 1993 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 62-60001 



First Printed 1963 — CMH Pub 7-7-1 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
Stetson Conn, General Editor 



Advisory Committee 

(As of 24 May 1961) 



Fred Harvey Harrington 
University of Wisconsin 



Maj. Gen. Louis W. Truman 
U.S. Continental Army Command 



William R. Emerson 
Yale University 



Maj. Gen. Evan M. Houseman 
Industrial College of the Armed Forces 



Oron J. Hale 
University of Virginia 



Brig. Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr. 
U.S. Army War College 



W. Stull Holt 
University of Washington 



Brig. Gen. William A. Cunningham III 
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College 



Bell I. Wiley 
Emory University 



Col. Vincent J. Esposito 
United States Military Academy 



C. Vann Woodward 
Johns Hopkins University 



Office of the Chief of Military History 

Brig. Gen. James A. Norell, Chief of Military History 

Chief Historian Stetson Conn 

Chief, Histories Division Col. Leonard G. Robinson 

Chief, Publication Division Lt. Col. James R. Hillard 

Editor in Chief Joseph R. Friedman 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



To many an Allied soldier and officer and to countless armchair strategists, 
World War II in Europe appeared near an end when in late summer of 1944 
Allied armies raced across northern France, Belgium, and Luxembourg to the 
very gates of Germany. That this was not, in fact, the case was a painful 
lesson that the months of September, October, November, and December would 
make clear with stark emphasis. 

The story of the sweep from Normandy to the German frontier has been 
told in the already published Breakout and Pursuit. The present volume 
relates the experiences of the First and Ninth U.S. Armies, the First Allied 
Airborne Army, and those American units which fought under British and 
Canadian command, on the northern flank of the battle front that stretched 
across the face of Europe from the Netherlands to the Mediterranean. The 
operations of the Third U.S. Army in the center, from mid-September through 
mid-December, have been recounted in The Lorraine Campaign; those of the 
Seventh U.S. Army on the south will be told in The Riviera to the Rhine, a 
volume in preparation. 

Unlike the grand sweep of the pursuit, the breaching of the West Wall 
called for the most grueling kind of fighting. Huge armies waged the campaign 
describecV in this book, but the individual soldier, pitting his courage and 
stamina against harsh elements as well as a stubborn enemy, emerges as the 
moving spirit of these armies. In the agony of the Huertgen Forest, the 
frustration of Market-Garden, the savagery of the struggle for Aachen, the valor 
of the American soldier and his gallant comrades proved the indispensable 
ingredient of eventual victory. 



Washington, D.C. 
24 May 1961 



JAMES A. NORELL 
Brigadier General, USA 
Chief of Military History 



The Author 



Charles B. MacDonald, a graduate of Presbyterian College, is the author 
of Company Commander, 1 an account of his experiences as an officer of the 
2d Infantry Division in the European theater during World War II. He is 
coauthor and compiler of Three Battles: Arnaville, Altuzzo, and Schmidt and 
a contributor to Command Decisions. Since 1953 he has supervised the 
preparation of other volumes in the European and Mediterranean theater sub- 
series of UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II and is currently 
writing another volume in the European theater subseries. In 1957 he re- 
ceived a Secretary of the Army Research and Study Fellowship and spent a 
year studying the relationship of terrain, weapons, and tactics on European 
battlefields. A lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, he holds the Purple 
Heart and the Silver Star. 



1 Washington, 1947. 



Preface 



Some who have written of World War II in Europe have dismissed the 
period between 1 1 September and 1 6 December 1 944 with a paragraph or two. 
This has been their way of gaining space to tell of the whirlwind advances 
and more spectacular command decisions of other months. The fighting during 
September, October, November, and early December belonged to the small 
units and individual soldiers, the kind of warfare which is no less difficult and 
essential no matter how seldom it reaches the spectacular. 

It is always an enriching experience to write about the American soldier — in 
adversity no less than in glittering triumph. Glitter and dash were conspicu- 
ously absent in most of the Siegfried Line fighting. But whatever the period 
may lack in sweeping accomplishment it makes up in human drama and 
variety of combat actions. Here is more than fighting within a fortified line. 
Here is the Huertgen Forest, the Roer plain, Aachen, and the largest airborne 
attack of the war. The period also eventually may be regarded as one of the 
most instructive of the entire war in Europe. A company, battalion, or 
regiment fighting alone and often unaided was more the rule than the exception. 
In nuclear war or in so-called limited war in underdeveloped areas, of which 
we hear so much today, this may well be the form the fighting will assume. 

As befits the nature of the fighting, this volume is focused upon tactical 
operations at army level and below. The story of command and decision in 
higher headquarters is told only when it had direct bearing on the conduct of 
operations in those sectors under consideration. The logistics of the campaign 
likewise has been subordinated to the tactical narrative. It is a ground story 
in the sense that air operations have been included only where they had direct 
influence upon the ground action. It is also an American story. Although 
considerable attention has been paid British and Canadian operations where 
U.S. units were involved, this is designed only to place U.S. operations in 
proper perspective. 

In the fullest sense of the term, this volume represents a co-operative enter- 
prise. Reference in the footnotes and the bibliographical note can give only 
partial credit to the scores of officers and men who furnished information or 
unraveled questions of fact. Nearly every officer who held the post of division 
commander or above during the campaign has read the manuscript of this 
volume, and at least one ranking officer from each division, corps, and army 
headquarters has read and commented upon the manuscript. 



XI 



To list all present and former officials of the Office of the Chief of Military 
History who by their advice and support helped make the work possible would 
be prohibitively lengthy. Those of my colleagues whose invaluable contribu- 
tions to this co-operative enterprise can be precisely noted are as follows: 

The historian who performed most of the original research in German 
materials and by his monographs on German actions provided in effect a 
companion manuscript to the author's American story was Lucian Heichler. 
The editor was Miss Ruth Stout, who accomplished her task with high pro- 
fessional skill and commendable tact and understanding. Copy editing was 
done by Mrs. Marion P. Grimes. The maps, which serve not only to illustrate 
the narrative but also to tie diverse actions together, are the work of Charles 
V. P. von Luttichau. Miss Ruth Phillips selected the photographs. Mrs. Lois 
Aldridge of the World War II Records Division, National Archives and Rec- 
ords Service, displayed remarkable patience in assisting the author's exploration 
of mountains of records from the European theater. 

The contributions of Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, chief historian at the 
time this volume was prepared, cannot be so precisely stated, yet no individual 
contributed more. It was he who first brought the author into the field of 
military history and patiently and astutely guided his early efforts. 

Any credit for this volume should be divided among all those who helped 
make it possible. On the other hand, the author alone is responsible for 
interpretations made and conclusions drawn, as well as for any errors of 
omission or commission which may appear. 

Washington, D.C. CHARLES B. MacDONALD 

15 May 1961 



xu 



Contents 



PART ONE 
Breaching the Siegfried Line 



Chapter Page 

I. THE ROAD TO GERMANY 3 

Allied Strategy 6 

The Shadow of Logistics . 10 

The Germans in the West 14 

II. THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 20 

Weapons and Equipment 25 

The Terrain and the West Wall 28 

A Pause at the Border 36 

III. V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 39 

The Race for the West Wall 41 

Into Germany 43 

Battle of the Schnee Eifel 49 

Bridgehead at Wallendorf 56 

Defense of the Bridgehead 63 

IV. VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 66 

German Developments 69 

The Battle of the Stolberg Corridor 71 

The Drive on the Second Band 75 

A Wall About Aachen 80 

Battle of the Monschau Corridor 82 

The Germans Strike Back 86 

The Onset of Position Warfare 90 

The First Fight in the Forest 92 



xm 



Chapter Page 

V. ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 96 

Defense of the Albert 98 

From the Albert to the Border 101 

Delay in the Assault 112 

PART TWO 
An Airborne Carpet in the North 

VI. OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 119 

The Germans in the Netherlands 123 

Seven Days for Planning 127 

What Did the Germans Know? 134 

The Flight to the Corridor 136 

VII. INVASION FROM THE SKY 140 

"a remarkably beautiful late summer day" 140 

Hell's Highway 143 

Six Bridges and a Ridge 154 

Taking the Objectives lt>0 

The Red Devils at Arnhem 170 

VIII. DECISION ON THE GROUND 174 

Developments on D Plus 2 (19 September) 174 

The Fight for the Nijmegen Bridges 179 

First Attempts To Drive on Arnhem 184 

Keeping the Corridor Open 186 

The Outcome at Arnhem 195 

The Achievements and the Cost 198 

Release of the U.S. Divisions 201 

IX. THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 207 

The Controversy About Antwerp 209 

The Battle of the Schelde 215 

Baptism of Fire 222 

South Beveland and Walcheren 227 

Something Beastly in Antwerp 229 

X. THE PEEL MARSHES 231 

First Army Draws the Assignment 231 

The British Attempt 241 

A Spoiling Attack 242 



xiv 



PART THREE 



The Battle of Aachen 

Chapter Page 

XI. A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 251 

First Army Readjusts the Front 251 

Planning the West Wall Assault 252 

"Those infantrymen have guts!" 260 

Commitment of CCB 269 

XII. CLOSING THE CIRCLE 281 

The 18th Infantry Drives North 287 

The 30th Division Strikes South 293 

Sealing the Gap 304 

XIII. ASSAULT ON THE CITY 307 

The Assault Begins 309 

Holding the Last Link 313 

The Final Blow 314 

What Aachen Cost 317 

PART FOUR 
The Roer River Dams 

XIV. THE FIRST ATTACK ON SCHMIDT 323 

The Neglected Objective 324 

Objective: Schmidt 328 

To the First Clearing 331 

Toward Raffelsbrand and Vossenack 334 

Regiment Wegelein 337 

XV. THE SECOND ATTACK ON SCHMIDT 341 

Planning the Thrust 343 

Objective: Schmidt 348 

The Germans React 352 

Events Along the Trail 359 

Catastrophe in Vossenack 364 

The Kail Gorge 366 

Climax at Kommerscheidt 368 

Withdrawal Across the Kail 369 

New Missions 372 

XV 



PART FIVE 



The Huertgen Forest 



Chapter Page 

XVI. THE BIG PICTURE IN OCTOBER 377 

Air Support 381 

An Enigma Named Logistics 382 

XVII. NEW PLANS TO DRIVE TO THE RHINE 390 

German Resurgence and Deception 392 

First Army Plans 397 

Ninth Army Plans 400 

Operation QUEEN 403 

The Roer River Dams and the Weather 406 

XVIII. VII CORPS MAKES THE MAIN EFFORT 408 

The State of the LXXXI Corps 409 

Preliminary Bombardment 411 

The Push Northeast From Schevenhuette 415 

Armor in the Stolberg Corridor 421 

The Second Battle of the Donnerberg 424 

Another Victim of the Huertgen Forest 428 

XIX. V CORPS JOINS THE OFFENSIVE 440 

A Fourth Fight on the Bloody Plateau 440 

The Fight for Huertgen 447 

An Armored Drive on Kleinhau 448 

Broadening the Effort 451 

Bergstein and Castle Hill 457 

XX. THE FINAL FIGHT TO BREAK OUT OF THE FOREST . 464 

The Fruits of Deception 464 

A Handful of Old Men 470 

Resuming the Corps Main Effort 474 

Towns, Woods, Hills, and Castles 479 

German Reinforcements 487 

Debacle at Merode 490 



xvi 



PART SIX 



Battle of the Roer Plain 

Chapter Page 

XXI. CLEARING THE INNER WINGS OF THE ARMIES ... 497 

The Fight North of the Boundary 499 

The Fight South of the Boundary 503 

The Push to the Inde 506 

Taking the High Ground 510 

XXII. THE ROER RIVER OFFENSIVE 516 

Planning Period 516 

D Day on the Roer Plain 522 

Armor Attracts Armor 530 

Finding the Formula 534 

The Push to Gereonsweiler 540 

XXIII. THE GEILENKIRGHEN SALIENT 545 

Operation CLIPPER 546 

The Jump-off 550 

An Exercise in Frustration 554 

XXIV. NINTH ARMY'S FINAL PUSH TO THE ROER .... 558 

". . . in effect we are there ..." 560 

A Hundred Men of the XIII Corps 566 

A Shift in the Main Effort 571 

Gut Hasenfeld and the Sportplatz 574 



PART SEVEN 
Conclusion 

XXV. THE APPROACHES TO DUEREN 581 

On the Plain 583 

In the Forest 587 

To the River 590 



XVll 



Chapter Page 

XXVI. OBJECTIVE: THE ROER RIVER DAMS 596 

The Neglected Objective 596 

The Second Battle of the Monschau Corridor . . . . . . 602 

Heartbreak Crossroads 606 

Something in the Air 611 

The VIII Corps in the Ardennes— Eif el 612 

XXVII. THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN 616 



Appendix 

A. TABLE OF EQUIVALENT RANKS 623 

B. RECIPIENTS OF THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS . 624 

C. FIRST ARMY STAFF ROSTER AS OF 11 SEPTEMBER 1944 . 627 

D. NINTH ARMY STAFF ROSTER AS OF 4 OCTOBER 1944 . . 628 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 629 

GLOSSARY 633 

CODE NAMES 636 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 637 

INDEX 641 

Maps 

1. Drive From the Albert Canal to the West Wall, XIX Corps, 10-19 

September 1944 97 

2. The Battle of the Schelde, 2 October-8 November 1944 216 

3. Operations in the Peel Marshes, 29 September-3 December 1944 . . . 234 

4. Encirclement of Aachen, 7-20 October 1944 282 

5. The Roer River Dams 324 

6. The First Attack on Schmidt, 9th Division, 6-16 October 1944 . . . 329 

7. The Second Attack on Schmidt, 28th Division, 2-9 November 1944 . . 344 

8. Tanks Along the Kail Trail 345 

9. Objective: the Roer River Dams, V Corps, 13-15 December 1944 . . 599 



xvm 



Maps I— IX are in accompanying map envelope 

Page 

I. Pursuit to the Border, 26 August-11 September 1944 
II. V Corps Hits the West Wall, 11-19 September 1944 

III. Breaching the West Wall South of Aachen, VII Corps, 12-29 

September 1944 

IV. Invasion from the Sky, Operation Market-Garden, 17-26 

September 1944 

V. XIX Corps Breaks Through the West Wall, 2-7 October 1944 
VI. The Huertgen Forest, 16 November-9 December 1944 

VII. Drive to the Roer, 16 November-9 December 1944 
VIII. The Approaches to Dueren, 10-16 December 1944 
IX. The Siegfried Line Campaign, 11 September- 15 December 1944 

Illustrations 

The Siegfried Line Frontispiece 

The Our River Facing 1 

Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery and General Dwight D. 

Eisenhower 9 

Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model 17 

Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt 17 

Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges 21 

Thirteen Commanders of the Western Front 22 

Captured Panzerfaust 26 

Captured Nebelwerfer 28 

Plan of Typical German Pillbox 32 

Interior of German Pillbox 33 

Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow 41 

Dragon's Teeth 51 

Wallendorf 58 

Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins 67 

General der Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger 69 

Task Force Lovelady 73 

Remains of a Pillbox 79 

Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett 98 

Fort Eben Emael 104 

The Albert Canal 105 

Market-Garden 117 

Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton 128 

Generaloberst Kurt Student 141 

Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor 143 



xix 



Page 

101st Airborne Division Landings 144 

506th Parachute Infantry 149 

Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin and Lt. Gen. Sir Miles C. Dempsey .... 155 

82d Airborne Division Drop 159 

Dutch Farmer Near Zon 183 

Hell's Highway 194 

Nijmegen Highway Bridge 202 

General der Infanterie Gustav von Zangen 218 

Troops of the 104th Division 225 

The Peel Marshes Area 239 

Aachen Facing 249 

Practicing Flame Thrower Technique 256 

Abandoned Crossing at the Wurm River 265 

Rim burg Castle 268 

Slag Pile and Tower Used for Observation 271 

A German Boy 300 

Civilian Refugees Leave Aachen 308 

Rifleman in Burning Aachen 311 

Col. Gerhard Wilck 317 

Aachen Munster 318 

View of Ruined Aachen 319 

Urft Dam Facing 321 

Schwammenauel Dam 325 

Kali Trail 354 and 356 

Weasel 370 

The Huertgen Forest Facing 375 

Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson 380 

A Winter Overcoat Reaches the Front Line 387 

Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley and Generals Eisenhower and Gerow .... 391 

General der Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel 394 

A Rest Period Behind the Lines 398 

155-mm. Self-Propelled Gun 415 

American Tank Burning Outside Hamich 423 

Struggling up a Wooded Hillside 435 

V Corps Rocket Launchers 443 

Engineers Repair a Road 447 

A Tank Moves Through Huertgen 449 

A Sea of Mud in the Huertgen Forest 456 

Veterans of the Huertgen Forest 458 

Medics Aid a Wounded Soldier 468 

Infantry and Tanks Near Huecheln 483 

The Frenzerburg 486 

The Roer Plain 495 

Maj. Gen. Raymond S. McLain 499 

xx 



Page 

Devastated Duerwiss 504 

Maj. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, Jr 517 

Captured German Tiger Tank 531 

British Flail Tank 549 

British Churchill Tanks 552 

British Flame-Throwing Crocodile 553 

Gut Hasenfeld 575 

Entrance to Swimming Pool Near Sportplatz 578 

Winter Battlefield Facing 579 

Men of the 331st Infantry Advance on Gey 588 

2d Division Troops 605 

Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton 613 



Illustrations are from Department of Defense files. 



XXI 



The U.S. Army Center of Military History 

The Center of Military History prepares and publishes histories as required by 
the U.S. Army. It coordinates Army historical matters, including historical proper- 
ties, and supervises the Army museum system. It also maintains liaison with public 
and private agencies and individuals to stimulate interest and study in the field 
of military history. The Center is located at 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, 
D.C. 20005-3402. 



xxn 



PART ONE 
BREACHING THE SIEGFRIED LINE 



CHAPTER I 

The Road to Germany 



The shadows were growing long as five 
men from the Second Platoon, Troop B, 
85th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 
5th U.S. Armored Division, reached the 
west bank of the Our River. To cross 
and claim credit as the first patrol on 
German soil, their commander had told 
them, they would have to hurry. 

Though the bridge over the Our had 
been demolished, the water was shallow 
enough for the men to wade across. On 
the far bank they climbed a hill to a cluster 
of farm buildings. Nearby they could see 
some nineteen or twenty concrete pill- 
boxes. Around one somebody had built a 
shed for chickens. 

The men made only a hasty inspection 
before starting back. An hour later the 
report of their crossing was on the way up 
the chain of command. At 1805 on 11 
September 1944, the report read, a patrol 
led by S. Sgt. Warner W. Holzinger 
crossed into Germany near the village of 
Stalzemburg, a few miles northeast of 
Vianden, Luxembourg. 1 

Sergeant Holzinger's patrol preceded 
others only by a matter of hours. In 
early evening, a reinforced company of the 
109th Infantry, 28th Division, crossed the 



1 Other members of the patrol: Cpl, Ralph F. 
Diven, T/5 Coy T. Locke, Pfc. George F. 
McNeal, and a French interpreter, a Lieutenant 
DeLille. V Corps G-3 Jnl, 1 1 Sep 44 ; Combat 
Interv with Lt. L. L. Vipond, Ex O, Troop B, 
85th Ren Sq. 



Our on a bridge between Weiswampach, 
in the northern tip of Luxembourg, and 
the German village of Sevenig. Almost co- 
incidentally, southeast of St. Vith, Bel- 
gium, a patrol from the 22d Infantry, 4th 
Division, also crossed the Our near the vil- 
lage of Hemmeres. Men of this patrol 
spoke to civilians and, to provide proof of 
their crossing, procured a German cap, 
some currency, and a packet of soil. 2 

The armored and infantry divisions 
which furnished these patrols were units 
of the V Corps of the First U.S. Army. 
Their presence along the German border 
marked the start of a new phase in the 
execution of a directive that the Com- 
bined Chiefs of Staff of the Allied Powers 
had given earlier in World War II to 
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme 
Allied Commander in Europe. General 
Eisenhower was to "undertake operations 
aimed at the heart of Germany and the 
destruction of her armed forces." 3 

As the First Army's patrols crossed the 
border, three Allied army groups and 
seven armies were deployed in a grand arc 
stretching from the North Sea to Switzer- 
land. On the Allied left wing was the 21 
Army Group under Field Marshal Sir 

2 28th Div G-3 Jnl, n Sep 44; 4th Div AAR, 
Sep 44. A patrol from the 28th Division's 110th 
Infantry crossed a short while later near the 
village of Harspelt. 

3 For details, see Forrest C. Pogue, The Su- 
preme Command, UNITED STATES ARMY 
IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1954), pp. 
49-55- 



4 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Bernard L. Montgomery, consisting of the 
First Can adian and Second British Armies. 
(Map I)* In the center was the 12th 
Army Group under Lt. Gen. Omar N. 
Bradley, with the First and Third U.S. 
Armies and the new Ninth U.S. Army, 
which had become operational on 5 Sep- 
tember and was reducing the Breton 
coastal fortress of Brest, far behind the 
current front lines. On the right wing 
were the 1st French and Seventh U.S. 
Armies, destined to become on 15 Sep- 
tember the 6th Army Group under Lt. 
Gen. Jacob L. Devers. 4 

The crossing of the German border on 
1 1 September was another strong draught 
contributing to a heady optimism with 
which Allied troops and their commanders 
were reeling. Operating along the Chan- 
nel coast, the Canadians already had 
captured Dieppe and the 1st British Corps 
of the First Canadian Army was putting 
the finishing touches to conquest of 
Le Havre. The Second British Army had 
overrun Brussels and Antwerp, the latter 
with its deepwater port facilities almost 
intact. 5 The First Army had taken Liege 
and the city of Luxembourg. The Third 
Army in northeastern France was building 
up along the Moselle River and already 
had a bridgehead near the Lorraine city of 



t * Maps numbered in Roman are placed in 
inverse order inside the back cover. 

4 For the story of the creation of the 6th Ariny 
Group, see Robert Ross Smith, The Riviera to 
the Rhine, a volume in preparation for the series 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR 
II. 

5 Accounts of British and Canadian operations 
may be found in: Field Marshal the Viscount 
Montgomery of Alamein, Normandy to the Baltic 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948) ; 
Charles P. Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939- 
1945 (Ottawa: E. Cloutier, King's Printer, 
1948) ; and Maj. Gen. Sir Francis de Guingand, 
Operation Victory (New York: Charles Scrib- 
ner's Sons, 1947). 



Metz. 6 Having successfully landed in 
southern France on 15 August, the two 
armies in the south soon would become 
part of a single western front. During 1 1 
September a patrol from the Third Army 
made contact with French units from the 
south near Dijon. 

Most of the fighting immediately pre- 
ceding the crossing of the German border 
had been pursuit warfare. The Germans 
were on the run. Except for the Third 
Army, which had been handicapped for 
five days while bearing the brunt of a gen- 
eral transportation shortage and gasoline 
drought, the Allied drive had reached its 
zenith during the period i-ji September. 
During these eleven days the British had 
traveled approximately 250 miles, from 
the Seine River to the Belgian-Dutch 
border. The First U.S. Army had taken 
time out near Mons, Belgium, to bag 
about 25,000 Germans in a giant pocket 
and make an abrupt change in direction, 
but still had covered approximately 200 
miles. By 1 1 September the Allies had 
reached a general line which pre-D-Day 
planners had expected would be gained 
about D plus 330 (2 May 1945). The 
advance thus was far ahead of schedule, 
some 233 days. 7 

A most encouraging feature of Allied 
success was that casualties had been 
lighter than expected. Exclusive of the 
forces in southern France, Allied casualties 
from 6 June to 1 1 September were 39,96 1 
killed, 164,466 wounded, and 20,142 



For Third Army operations in Lorraine, see 
H. M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Wash- 
ington, 1950). 

7 Maps in Post Neptune Planning Forecast 1. 
27 May 44, SHAEF SGS 381 Post Overlord 
Planning, I. The planners expected the surrender 
about D plus 360. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



5 



missing, a total of 224,569, or a little 
more than 10 percent of the total 
strength committed. 8 Since the landings 
in Normandy, the Germans had lost ap- 
proximately 300,000 men, while another 
200,000 were penned in various redoubts. 

Despite an acute shortage of ports, 
Allied build-up in men and materiel had 
been swift. By the afternoon of 1 1 Sep- 
tember a cumulative total of 2,168,307 
men and 460,745 vehicles had landed in 
Normandy. 9 General Eisenhower, who 
had assumed direct operational command 
in the field on 1 September, controlled on 
the Continent 26 infantry divisions (in- 
cluding 1 airborne division) and 13 ar- 
mored divisions (not including a number 
of cavalry groups and separate tank bat- 
talions). Of this total the British and 
Canadians had furnished 16 divisions (in- 
cluding 1 Polish armored division), while 
the Americans had provided 23 (including 
1 French armored division). 10 As soon as 
General Eisenhower assumed direct com- 
mand of the forces in southern France, he 
would gain 3 American infantry divisions 
(not including an airborne task force of 
approximately divisional size), 5 French 
infantry divisions, and 2 French armored 
divisions. The total for the Western Front 
would then be 35 infantry and 14 armored 
divisions. In addition, 2 U.S. and 2 
British airborne divisions, 1 Polish air- 
borne brigade, and a British airportable 
infantry division were in Supreme Head- 
quarters reserve. 

General Eisenhower's 49 divisions were 
opposed, theoretically, by about 48 infan- 
try and 15 panzer-type divisions, plus 
several panzer brigades. As noted by 
Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, 

8 SHAEF G-3 War Room Summary 102. 

9 SHAEF G-3 War Room Summary 99. 

10 Ibid. 



who on 5 September began a second tour 
as Oberbejehlshaber West (Commander in 
Chief West), these forces actually existed 
only on paper. 11 While Allied units were 
close to full strength, hardly a German 
division was. Most had incurred severe 
losses in both men and equipment, and 
many were badly demoralized from con- 
stant defeat in the field. The equivalent 
of five divisions had been corralled in the 
Channel Islands and the coastal "for- 
tresses." Rundstedt estimated that his 
forces were equivalent to about half the 
number of Allied divisions. Allied su- 
periority in guns was at least 2j/ 2 to 1 and 
in tanks approximately 20 to i. 12 

The disparity between forces was less 
striking on the ground than in the air. 
The Allies had three tactical air forces: 
the IX and XIX Tactical Air Commands 
(both under the Ninth Air Force) and the 
2d Tactical Air Force (British). Operat- 
ing from bases in the United Kingdom 
and France were 5,059 American bombers, 
3,728 American fighters, 5,104 combat 
aircraft of the Royal Air Force, and addi- 
tional hundreds of miscellaneous types for 
reconnaissance, liaison, and transport. 13 



11 The German term Oberbefehlshaber West 
means either the Commander in Chief West or 
his headquarters. In this volume, the term Com- 
mander in Chief West will be used to refer to 
the person holding the title Oberbefehlshaber 
West, while the abbreviated form OB WEST will 
refer to his headquarters. 

12 OB WEST, A Study in Command, pp. 176, 
180. This manuscript, by Generalleutnant Bodo 
Zimmermann (G-3, OB WEST) and others, was 
written under the auspices of the Department of 
the Army Historical Division in 1946 and is filed 
in OCMH. Materiel estimates are from Cole, 
The Lorraine Campaign, p. 3. 

13 AAF Staff Control Aircraft Inventory, Com- 
bined Allied vs. Axis Air Strength Rpts, 1 Sep 44. 
All U.S. air records used in this volume are 
located at the Air University Library, Maxwell Air 
Force Base, Montgomery, Ala. 



6 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



The enemy's one tactical air force in the 
West, the Third Air Force (Luftflotte 3), 
had only 573 serviceable aircraft of all 
types. In the entire Luftwaffe the Ger- 
mans had only 4,507 serviceable planes, 
and most of these had to be retained 
within Germany to contest Allied strategic 
bombers. 14 

The ground front was too fluid during 
the early days of September for Field 
Marshal von Rundstedt to accomplish 
much toward forming one of the new lines 
which Adolf Hitler designated with febrile 
frequency. Nevertheless, by 1 1 Septem- 
ber Rundstedt and his subordinates were 
making honest efforts to conform to the 
latest decree, to man a new line that was 
to be held "under any conditions." The 
line ran from the Belgian coast, including 
the banks of the Schelde estuary — which 
might be employed to deny use of Antwerp 
even though the port had been lost — 
southeastward along the Dutch-Belgian 
border to the West Wall (the Siegfried 
Line) and along the West Wall to 
the western boundaries of Lorraine and 
Alsace. 15 

For all the catastrophic nature of the 
retreat from France, Rundstedt's order of 
battle at army and army group levels 
looked on 1 1 September much as it had 
before the Allied invasion. On the right 
wing, along the Dutch border and within 
the northern half of the West Wall oppo- 
site the 21 Army Group and the First U.S. 
Army, was Army Group B under Gen- 
eralfeldmarschall Walter Model. Model, 
whom Rundstedt had replaced as Com- 
mander in Chief West, controlled the 



14 German figures furnished from Luftwaffe 
records by the British Historical Section, as cited 
by Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, p. 4. 

is OB WEST, A Study in Command, pp. 
175-78. 



Fifteenth, First Parachute, and Seventh 
Armies. On the left wing was Army 
Group G ( Generaloberst Johannes Blasko- 
witz), composed of the First Army, which 
confronted the Third U.S. Army, and the 
Nineteenth Army, which faced what was 
to become the 6th Army Group. What 
was left of the Fifth Panzer Army was 
assembling behind the German border. 
The Germans had a sound framework 
upon which to hang reinforcements — if 
reinforcements could be found. 16 

Allied Strategy 

Allied strategy, as expressed in pre-D- 
Day planning at Supreme Headquarters, 
Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), 
looked toward the ultimate objective of 
Berlin; but on the way the Allies wanted 
an economic objective, which, if captured, 
"would rapidly starve Germany of the 
means to continue the war." This was 
the Ruhr industrial area, the loss of which, 
together with Belgium and Holland, would 
deprive Germany of 65 percent of its 
production of crude steel and 56 percent 
of its coal. 17 

The widespread deployment of the Al- 
lied armies on 1 1 September reflected 
General Eisenhower's pre-D-Day decision 
to go after the Ruhr and Berlin on a broad 
front. Later to become known as the 
"broad front policy," this concept was not 
appreciably different from the time-tested 
military strategy of multiple parallel col- 
umns. 

10 Opns Maps (i : 1,000,000) dtd 11 Sep 44, 
Operationskarte West. See also OB WEST, A 
Study in Command, p. 177. 

17 SHAEF Planning Staff draft of Post 
Neptune Courses of Action After Capture of the 
Lodgment Area, Main Objectives and Axis of 
Advance, I, 3 May 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. An 
exhaustive study of Allied strategy may be found 
in Pogue, The Supreme Command. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



7 



In considering which routes of advance 
were best, SHAEF planners had seriously 
studied four: (i) the plain of Flanders; 
(2) the Maubeuge-Liege-Aachen axis 
north of the Ardennes; (3) the Ardennes; 
and (4) the Metz-Kaiserslautern gap. 18 
After deliberation, they had ruled out 
Flanders, because of too many water ob- 
stacles, and the Ardennes, because of 
rugged terrain and limited communica- 
tions. The other two avenues merited 
greater attention. 19 

The northern route via Maubeuge- 
Liege-Aachen (the Aachen Gap) obvi- 
ously leads more directly to the Ruhr. 
The terrain is relatively open, particularly 
beyond Aachen on the Cologne plain. 
Although an advance via Metz-Kaiser- 
slautern leads also to another industrial 
prize, the Saar Basin with its mines and 
smelters, the terrain in both Lorraine and 
the Saar is broken. Advance to the Ruhr 
after reaching the Rhine along this route 
is canalized up the narrow Rhine valley. 
Although both avenues had exercised at- 
traction in modern and earlier wars, the 
northern route had commanded almost 
obligatory attention since the northward 
shift of German industry about 1870 
and since the neutrality of Belgium and 
the Netherlands ceased to command re- 
spect. In terms peculiar to the war at 
hand, the northern route offered promising 
intermediate objectives: a chance to meet 
and conquer major German forces ex- 
pected to be concentrated in defense of 
the Ruhr; elimination of the enemy's 
strategic reserve; access to the best air- 



18 Two others, the Belfort and Saverne gaps, 
were too far south to afford any appreciable 
threat to the Ruhr or Berlin. 

19 SHAEF Planning Staff draft, 3 May 44; see 
also SHAEF Planning Staff draft, 30 May 44. 
Both in SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



fields between the Seine and Germany; a 
secure left flank resting on the coast; 
proximity to air bases in England; and 
access to the Channel ports, including 
Antwerp, lack of which would severely 
limit the forces that could be maintained. 20 

Before the invasion, General Eisenhower 
had concurred in the planners' recommen- 
dation that the main advance be directed 
toward the northeast "with the object of 
striking directly at the Ruhr by the route 
north of the Ardennes." He also had 
agreed that a "subsidiary axis" be main- 
tained south of the Ardennes to provide a 
threat to Metz and the Saar. This was 
understood to mean an "advance on a 
broad front North and South of the 
Ardennes," which would avoid committing 
the Allied forces irretrievably to one or the 
other of the comparatively narrow gaps. 21 
General Eisenhower looked to Field Mar- 
shal Montgomery's 21 Army Group to 
make the main thrust in the north; the 
Americans under General Bradley, the 
subsidiary effort in the south. 

When the breakout from the Normandy 
beachhead had turned into wholesale 
pursuit, Allied commanders had been 
confronted with glittering opportunities 
at every turn. Yet the whirlwind advance 
also introduced logistical complications 
of a distressing complexity. Though sup- 
plies already ashore were for the mo- 
ment adequate, the explosive advance so 
stretched lines of communication that a 
transportation system geared for slower, 
more methodical moves proved totally 
unequal to the prodigious tasks suddenly 
thrust upon it. Having neither the 
strength nor the transport to exploit all 
the tempting possibilities, the Supreme 



20 Ibid. 

21 Ibid. 



8 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Commander had to face the fact that some 
kind of deviation from the original concept 
of a broad front advance had to be made. 
Out of this undeniable reality emerged 
decisions which were to affect the conduct 
of operations in the fall of 1944 through- 
out the course of the Siegfried Line Cam- 
paign. 

Meeting with Bradley and Montgomery 
on 23 August, General Eisenhower re- 
marked the likelihood that the logistical 
situation soon might crimp Allied opera- 
tions severely. The crux of the problem, 
as General Eisenhower saw it, was in the 
ports. To provide a solid base for 
sustained operations, an invasion force 
must have ports; yet the Allies at this point 
had only the Normandy beaches and 
Cherbourg. Perhaps it would be best, 
while the momentum of the advance con- 
tinued, to forego some of the glamorous 
tactical opportunities in favor of more 
utilitarian objectives. 

Between the Seine River and the Pas de 
Calais, on a direct route north toward the 
Channel ports and Antwerp, sat the 
enemy's Fifteenth Army, the only sizable 
reserve the Germans still possessed in 
northern France. Were the 21 Army 
Group to attack northward through the 
plain of Flanders, this reserve might be 
eliminated even as the Channel ports were 
captured, whereupon, with a firm base 
assured, Montgomery might reorient his 
drive more specifically in keeping with the 
direction SHAEF planners had intended. 
In the process, the other intermediate 
objectives along the northern route, like 
the airfields and the flying bomb launch- 
ing sites, also might be attained. In the 
meantime, the Americans might be es- 
tablishing their own firm base by opening 
the Brittany ports and might be preparing 
to continue their subsidiary thrust. 



Though Field Marshal Montgomery 
proved receptive to General Eisenhower's 
plan, he insisted on having an entire 
American army moving along his right 
flank. Since General Eisenhower already 
intended reinforcing the British with the 
airborne troops at his disposal, he thought 
Montgomery overcautious; but in order to 
assure success, he acceded to the request. 
The location of the First U.S. Army 
dictated its selection for the supporting 
role, while the Third Army was to clear 
the Brittany ports and amass supplies for 
an advance eastward through Metz. 22 

As developed in detail by Field Marshal 
Montgomery, the First Army's mission was 
to support the British advance by estab- 
lishing forces in the area of Brussels- 
Maastricht-Liege— Namur-Charleroi. At 
the suggestion of General Bradley the 
boundary between the two army groups 
was adjusted so that Brussels was allotted 
to the British, the boundary then swinging 
distinctly northeast at Brussels. This ad- 
justment would eliminate the possibility 
that the British might be pinched out at 
Antwerp. 23 

In essence, the decision emerging from 
the 23 August meeting resulted in a 
temporary shift of the main effort from the 
Maubeuge-Liege-Aachen axis to the plain 
of Flanders, a route that preinvasion 
planners had blackballed as a primary axis 
into Germany. Yet the shift was more 



22 Eisenhower to Gen George C. Marshall, 
CPA 90235, 22 Aug 44, SHAEF cable log; Ltr, 
Eisenhower to Montgomery, 24 Aug 44, SHAEF 
SGS 381, I; Eisenhower to Marshall, 5 Sep 44, 
Pogue files. 

23 Montgomery to army comdrs, M-520, 26 
Aug 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I; 12th A Gp Ltr of 
Instrs 6, 25 Aug 44, 12th A Gp Rpt of Opns, 
V, 85-87; Ltr, Bradley to Montgomery, 26 Aug 
44, 1 2 th A Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, I; 
Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 200. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



9 




Field Marshal Montgomery and 
General Eisenhower during an in- 
formal discussion at Montgomery's head- 
quarters in France early in September 1944. 



tactical than strategic in that it was made 
for the purpose of gaining intermediate 
ohjcctives vital to a final offensive along 
the lines of the original strategic concept. 
It could be argued that it involved no 
real shift of any kind because of the broad 
interpretation that had come to be ac- 
corded the route "north of the Ardennes." 

The most salient change from original 
planning was the new location of the First 
Army. General Eisenhower had intended 
to employ both the First and Third Armies 
south of the Ardennes. Though both 
Eisenhower and Bradley were to try to get 
at least parts of the two armies moving 
together again, the fact was that through 
the course of the Siegfried Line Campaign 
the First and Third Armies were to be 



separated by the barrier of the Ardennes. 
The First Army — not the, British— was to 
attack through the preferred Aachen Gap 
and eventually was to be designated the 
Allied main effort. 

More than the shift of the First Army, 
the fact emerging from the August discus- 
sions which upset General Bradley was 
that the priority assigned the northern 
thrust meant severe restrictions on supplies 
for the Third Army. Both Bradley and 
the commander of the Third Army, Lt. 
Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., reacted to the 
decision as if Montgomery had stolen their 
birthrights. 2 '' General Bradley wanted in- 
stead a "modified double thrust," one that 
would achieve the goals in the north with 
the help of only one American corps, while 
the rest of the First Army joined the Third 
on the southern route. 2 r> Patton, for his 
part, thought his army by itself could get 
across the German border in record time 
if properly supplied. Even after General 
Patton had felt the stringent logistical 
pinch which held him immobile for five 
days along the Mcuse, he still had visions 
of one thrust taking the Third Army 
across the Rhine River. 28 

General Eisenhower had no intention of 
abandoning the subsidiary thrust. Revel- 
ation of this fact prompted Field Marshal 
Montgomery to voice an objection as 



-* Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story (New 
York: Henry Holt and Company, 195'), PP- 
400-403; George S. Patton, Jr.,. War As I Knew 
It (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1947), 

pp. 1 14, 1 '7. *W< 

23 Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 399. 

2B Patton, War As I Knew It, pp. u 4 , 117, 13a. 
As late as 19 October, General Patton felt that, 
given proper maintenance and supplies, he could 
reach the Siegfried Line in two days and "stand 
a high probability of penetrating it and thus be 
in position to make a rapid advance to the 
Rhine." Patton to Bradley, 19 Oct 44, tath A 
Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, II. 



10 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



strong or stronger than those registered by 
Bradley and Patton. The crux of Mont- 
gomery's argument was that the thrust 
toward Antwerp should not be looked 
upon as a limited objective operation but 
should be broadened into "one powerful 
full-blooded thrust across the Rhine and 
into the heart of Germany, backed by the 
whole of the resources of the Allied 
Armies . . . ." This would involve rele- 
gating some sectors of the Allied front to 
a "purely static role." 27 

Both Montgomery's and Patton's "one- 
thrust" theories probably will attract 
polemic disciples through the years, des- 
pite the damage done these theories by 
German tenacity in later stages of the war. 
Yet even as Montgomery and Patton 
promoted their ideas, planners at SHAEF 
labeled them castles of theory built upon 
sand. A drive by General Patton's army 
alone was logistically and tactically feasi- 
ble, the planners noted, only so far as the 
Rhine and thus was unlikely to force any 
decisive result. One thrust in the north, 
the planners admitted, might succeed in 
capturing the Ruhr and even in reaching 
Berlin; but it was neither tactically nor 
logistically feasible unless certain condi- 
tions were met. One was that by Sep- 
tember all Allied armies would have 
reached the Rhine; another, that by the 
same date Antwerp would have been 
receiving at least 1,500 tons of supply per 
day. Neither premise had shown any 
immediate signs of becoming a reality. 28 



27 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 
193, 196; see also Ltr, Montgomery to Eisen- 
hower, M-160, 4 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 

28 An exhaustive discussion of the subject is 
found in Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Sup- 
port of the Armies, Vol. II, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 
1959)- 



As an army commander, General Patton 
had few channels for making his voice 
heard on the subject after the first refusal. 
Not so Field Marshal Montgomery, who 
was both an army group commander and 
the top military representative in the 
theater of one of the major Allies. In one 
form or another, Montgomery was to raise 
the issue repeatedly, though the Siegfried 
Line Campaign was to open in an atmos- 
phere of accord because of a temporary 
settlement reached on 10 September. 
Meeting Montgomery at Brussels, General 
Eisenhower refused to accept the view that 
the field marshal's priority should prevail 
to the exclusion of all other operations. 
Nevertheless, he agreed to a temporary 
delay in clearing the seaward approaches 
to Antwerp, a project which he felt should 
have chief emphasis, while Montgomery 
extended his northern thrust to gain a 
bridgehead across the Neder Rijn (Lower 
Rhine) in the Netherlands. Although 
Montgomery had failed to gain unquali- 
fied support for his northern thrust, his 
army group still retained the role of Allied 
main effort. 29 

The Shadow of Logistics 

The fervor with which Allied comman- 
ders contended for supplies stemmed 
directly from the critical nature of the 
logistical situation. Perhaps the most 
dramatic and widely publicized result of 
the supply crisis was the enforced halt of 
the entire Third Army when it ran out of 
fuel along the Meuse River from 1 to 6 
September. Yet the units in the north 



29 Notes on mtg at Brussels, 10 Sep 44, by Air 
Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W. Tedder, OCMH; 
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (New 
York: Doubleday and Company, 1948), pp. 
306-07. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



11 



had their problems as well, despite the 
priority assigned the northern thrust. A 
corps of the Second British Army, for 
example, was halted for two weeks west of 
the Seine so that its transport could help 
supply the rest of the army. A corps of 
the First Army also had to halt for four 
days in Belgium for want of gasoline. 

It was not shortage of supplies on the 
Continent that plagued the Allies. Build- 
up of supplies in Normandy had exceeded 
expectations. It was shortage of trans- 
portation, a problem created and intensi- 
fied mainly by the sporadic and explosive 
nature of the tactical advance. 30 

For all the lack of deepwater port 
facilities and a steady, orderly advance, 
supply echelons could have built a sound 
logistical structure had they been afforded 
a reasonable pause after the breakout 
from the confined Normandy beachhead. 
That was how the invasion had been 
planned: a pause at the Seine River for 
regrouping and amassing supplies. But 
the planners had not foreseen the nature 
of the German defeat in France. Every 
path strewn with gems of tactical oppor- 
tunity, Allied field commanders had felt 
compelled to urge their armies to go 
faster, faster. They had leaped the Seine 
briskly and kept going. 

While the timetable prepared by pre- 
invasion planners was admittedly con- 
jectural, it was nevertheless the only basis 
upon which those charged with delivering 
supplies could estimate the men, materiel, 
and transport needed. In gaining the D 
plus 330 line by D plus 97 (11 Septem- 
ber), the armies had covered almost the 



30 Unless otherwise noted, this study of supply 
is based upon Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical 
Support of the Armies, Vol. I, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Wash- 
ington, 1953), and Vol. II. 



entire distance in the last 48 days. The 
kind of logistical system that planners had 
expected would be developed over 233 
days obviously could not be created in 48. 
Furthermore, the preinvasion planners had 
stipulated that in early September twelve 
U.S. divisions could be supported as far 
east as the Seine; in actuality, sixteen U.S. 
divisions were more than 200 miles beyond 
the Seine in early September and several 
others were fighting in Brittany. The fact 
that these divisions could be maintained 
in any fashion under these circumstances 
came under the heading of a near miracle, 
for the exploitation of the tactical situa- 
tion had produced a ruthless disregard for 
an orderly development of a sound com- 
munications zone. 

During the period of confinement in 
Normandy, the inadequacy of the Norman 
rail net had not been felt too keenly. 
Distances were short and trucking proved 
equal to the demands placed upon it. 
When the armies spurted eastward, they 
uncovered a more extensive rail network, 
but it had been damaged severely by Allied 
bombing and French sabotage. Trucking 
companies had to carry their loads farther 
and farther forward. Despite extensive 
improvisation and emergency supply, de- 
liveries to the armies during the last few 
days of August dwindled to a few thou- 
sand tons. 

At the end of August the First Army 
estimated its daily average tonnage re- 
quirement as 5,500 tons. Even after 
General Eisenhower vested supply priority 
in the First Army and halted the Third 
Army, only 2,225 tons daily reached the 
First Army. 31 In addition to immobiliz- 
ing an entire corps for four days for want 



31 By using its own transportation, the army 
raised this to 3,000 tons. 



12 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



of gasoline, the First Army had to halt the 
armored divisions of the two advancing 
corps for periods as long as twenty-four 
hours. 32 When recorded receipts took a 
turn for the better on 5 September to 
reach 7,000 tons, General Bradley al- 
tered the previous allocation to split the 
available tonnage equally between his two 
armies, providing each with 3,500 tons. 
That was how the Third Army got moving 
again. 

The day the new allocation went into 
effect the First Army claimed that the 
Communications Zone had failed by 1,900 
tons to meet the 3,500 figure. This kind 
of thing was all the more serious because 
the army's meager reserves had long since 
been exhausted. By the end of August 
90 to 95 percent of all supplies on the 
Continent lay in depots near the beaches. 

There were two solutions : ( 1 ) Pause 
while the Communications Zone moved 
depots forward. Doing this would upset 
the momentum of a victorious advance 
and afford the enemy additional time to 
put the West Wall into shape. ( 2 ) Get 
new ports closer to the front. This Hitler 
himself had circumvented, over the objec- 
tions of his generals, by designating the 
ports as "fortresses" and directing that 
they be held to the last, even though 
valuable troops would be sacrificed in the 
process. 

The alternative to these solutions was a 
variation of the first. The 12th Army 
Group stated it as early as 27 August. 
"It is contemplated," the army group 
noted, "that the Armies will go as far as 
practicable and then wait until the sup- 
ply system in rear will permit further 
advance." 33 The pursuit would come to 

32 FUSA AAR, Sep 44. 

33 1 2th A Gp Admin Instrs 13, 27 Aug 44, 
FUSA AAR, Sep 44. 



no dramatic end. It would sputter out. 

In an effort to keep the armies moving, 
commanders from divisional units all the 
way back to the Communications Zone 
took extraordinary measures. That the 
advance carried as far as it did was 
attributable in no small part to these 
improvisations. 

Though rail reconstruction was pushed 
with vigor, it hardly could have been 
expected to keep pace with the violent 
spurts of the combat formations. Never- 
theless, by 30 August, railroad engineers 
and French civilians working round the 
clock had pushed two main routes as far 
as Paris. The network beyond the Seine 
was less severely crippled; but to get 
supplies through the damaged yards of 
Paris and beyond the destroyed rail 
bridges of the Seine, they had to be un- 
loaded and trucked through the city. In 
the First Army area, reconstruction crews 
quickly opened a line from Paris northeast 
through Soissons and by 18 September 
were to push it to a point just west of 
Liege. 34 

For all the accomplishments under this 
program, motor transport had to assume 
the principal burden, even though produc- 
tion difficulties in the United States had 
imposed limitations on trucks long before 
D-Day. When confronted with the en- 
gulfing demands of the pursuit, available 
motor transport could not deliver even 
daily maintenance, much less provide 
stocks for intermediate or advance depots. 
To make the most of available facilities, 
commanders decided on 23 August to 
establish a special truck route, the Red 
Ball Express. By closing off civilian 
traffic on two parallel routes to points 



34 FUSA Rpt of Opns, 1 Aug 44-22 Feb 45, 
p. 62. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



13 



southwest of Paris and by pushing the 
trucks and their drivers to the limit, they 
delivered 89,939 tons in eight days be- 
tween 25 August and 6 September. Be- 
ginning on 25 August with 67 truck 
companies, the Red Ball attained peak 
capacity on 29 August when 132 
companies, using 5,939 trucks, moved 
12,342 tons of supplies. The Red Ball 
was to continue operation for another 
eleven weeks and was to serve as the 
prototype for several less ambitious express 
services. 

The armies themselves took over much 
of the hauling. On 22 August General 
Bradley told both his armies to leave their 
heavy artillery west of the Seine and use 
the artillery trucks for transporting sup- 
plies. Because Communications Zone de- 
pots were far in the rear, trucks of the 
First Army often had to make round trips 
totaling 300 miles or more. On a few 
occasions truck companies searched for 
supplies all the way back to the invasion 
beaches. The First Army quartermaster 
scouted for advancing gasoline trains from 
a cub airplane. The First Army had 43 
Quartermaster truck companies, which 
were supplemented by 10 to 20 provisional 
companies made up from artillery and 
antiaircraft units. The infantry divisions 
advanced either on foot or by shuttling in 
trucks borrowed from their organic artil- 
lery and attached antiaircraft. 35 

Though emergency air supply proved 
highly valuable, tonnage delivered by this 
method fell short of 1,000 tons per day. 
Most of this went to the Third Army. 
The vagaries of weather, lack of service- 
able Continental airfields, and the need to 
withhold planes for their primary mission 
of training for and executing tactical air- 



borne operations imposed severe restric- 
tions on the airlift program. Another 
restriction developed when the city of 
Paris was liberated far ahead of schedule. 
Responsible for providing 1,500 tons of 
supplies daily for civil relief in the capital, 
the 1 2th Army Group had to obtain 500 
tons of this from the airlift. 

Major efforts were made to speed con- 
struction of fuel pipelines, but this task 
was inherently slow and was retarded 
further by the limitations on moving pipe 
imposed by the transportation shortage. 
While construction sometimes reached a 
record 30 to 40 miles a day, the combat 
troops were going even faster. During 
the early days of September the terminus 
of the pipeline was some 170 miles south- 
west of Paris. 

Combat commanders urged strictest 
supply economy. 36 All units rationed 
gasoline. Food was of emergency types, 
mostly C and K rations, supplemented in 
the First Army by approximately 75,000 
captured rations that added new mo- 
notony of canned fish to the diet. The 
Third Army captured huge quantities of 
German beef, not to mention the exciting 
acquisition of great stores of champagne. 
Cigarettes became so scarce in the First 
Army that the soldiers accepted even the 
mostly ersatz German cigarettes with relish. 

Gasoline was the main problem, not 
because enough had not reached the Con- 
tinent but because it could not be moved 
forward overnight and because worn-out 
vehicles used inordinate amounts. Am- 
munition presented no great problem 
during the mobile warfare of the pursuit, 
but it would, should a pitched battle 
develop at the gates of the West Wall. 
With all available transport used for daily 



35 FUSA AAR, Sep 44. 



See, for example, FUSA AAR, Sep 44. 



14 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



maintenance and none for reserve stocks, 
what would happen should the armies run 
into intense fighting? How to equip the 
men with heavier clothing now that winter 
was coming on? How to replace the 
worn-out items of signal, quartermaster, 
medical, engineer, and ordnance equip- 
ment? 

Had the effects of the logistical crisis 
disappeared with the close of the pursuit, 
the cosdy, miserable fighting that came to 
characterize the Siegfried Line Campaign 
might never have occurred. Yet the fact 
was that the pursuit ended because of the 
effects of the logistical crisis. The imprint 
of a weakened logistical system on the 
conduct of operations was to be marked 
for at least two more months. As many 
an Allied commander was to discover 
during the fall of 1944, a logistical head- 
ache is a persistent illness. 

The Germans in the West 

For all the implications of the logistical 
crisis, sober appreciations of the situation 
were none too common during late sum- 
mer 1944. The German army was "no 
longer a cohesive force but a number of 
fugitive battle groups, disorganized and 
even demoralized, short of equipment and 
arms." 37 This was the Allied view. 
Political upheaval within Germany or in- 
surrection within the Wehrmacht was 
likely to hasten the end. 38 The First 
Army G-2 believed that the enemy was 
concentrating all he had left opposite Metz 
and along the Lower Rhine, "leaving a gap 
from Trier to Maastricht which he is 



37 SHAEF Weekly Intel Summary 23, week 
ending 2 Sep 44. 

38 FUSA G-2 Estimate 24, 3 Sep 44, FUSA 
Rpt of Opns; TUSA G-2 Estimate 9, 28 Aug 
44, TUSA AAR, Vol. II. 



attempting to fill with everything on which 
he can lay his hands." This, the G-2 
declared, "had proved his undoing." 39 

This kind of optimism reflected no fleet- 
ing impression. In mid-September, when 
a corps commander took temporary leave 
of his troops for a short assignment else- 
where, he declared it "probable" that the 
war with Germany would be over before 
he could return. 40 On 15 September the 
First Army was almost sanguine over the 
possibility of enemy collapse in the Rhine- 
land and the "enormous" strategic op- 
portunity of seizing the Rhine bridges 
intact. 41 As late as the last week in 
September, the First Army commander 
believed that, given two weeks of good 
weather, Allied air and ground forces 
could "bring the enemy to their knees." 42 
Although a few dissenting voices tried to 
make themselves heard, caution was not 
the fashion during the late summer season 
of 1944. 

In many respects the true German situ- 
ation nurtured optimism. In five years 
of war the German armed forces had lost 
114,215 officers and 3,630,274 men, not 
including wounded who had returned to 
duty. The bulk of these had been Army 
losses. Many had been incurred during 
the recent months of June, July, and 
August, which had brought the Germans 
their most disastrous defeats in both East 



39 FUSA G-2 Estimate 26, n Sep 44. 

40 Memo, Maj Gen Leonard T. Gerow for 
O's and EM of V Corps, 17 Sep 44, V Corps 
Operations in the ETO, 6 Jan 42-9 May 45, 
p. 256. 

41 FUSA G-2 Estimate 28, 15 Sep 44. 

42 Personal Diary of Maj William C. Sylvan, 
former aide to the First Army Commander, Lt 
Gen Courtney H. Hodges. Entry of 24 Sep 44. 
Major Sylvan kept his diary, dealing primarily 
with General Hodges' activities, with the ap- 
proval of General Hodges. A copy is on file in 
OCMH through courtesy of Major Sylvan. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



15 



and West. During these three months 
the Army alone had suffered losses in 
dead, wounded, and missing of 1,210,600, 
approximately two thirds of which had 
been incurred in the East where both 
sides employed larger masses of men. 
Losses in transport and equipment also 
were tremendous; during August alone, 
for example, a total of 254,225 horses were 
lost. 43 

Not counting "paper units," which had 
headquarters but no troops, the Third 
Reich in early September possessed some 
252 divisions and 15 to 20 brigades, 
greatly varied as to strength and capabil- 
ities. They were deployed in five theaters. 
In Finland, the East, and the Balkans 
they were supplemented by approximately 
55 allied divisions (Finnish, Hungarian, 
and Bulgarian), for which the Germans 
had little respect. Most of the total of 
some 7,500,000 men were in the Field 
Army (Feldheer), the Replacement Army 
(Ersatzheer) , or the services of supply. 
About 207,000 were in the Waffen-SS, a 
mechanized Army-type force originally 
made up of volunteers from Nazi-party 
organizations. 

Of the 48 infantry and 15 panzer or 
panzer-type divisions which Field Marshal 
von Rundstedt controlled in the West, two 
represented a new class of 18 divisions 
which had been in process of formation 
since early July. These 18 divisions — 15 
of which went to the East and 1 to 
Scandinavia — were the first of the "volks 
grenadier" divisions, an honorific selected 
to appeal to the national and military 
pride of the German people ( das Volk ) . 
The troops were hospital returnees, con- 



43 A detailed annotated account of German 
strength, losses, and organization may be found 
in Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, pp. 29-43. 



verted naval and Luftwaffe personnel, 
previously exempt industrial workers, 
and youths just reaching military age. 

When Hitler in late August began to 
consider how to stop the headlong retreat 
in the West, he settled upon a plan to 
increase the number of volks grenadier 
divisions. On 2 September — already seri- 
ously planning a large-scale operation 
designed to regain the initiative— he di- 
rected creation of an "operational reserve" 
of twenty-five new volks grenadier divi- 
sions. They were to become available in 
the West between 1 October and 1 
December. 

Organization and equipment of the new 
divisions reflected a tendency, current in 
the German Army since 1943, to reduce 
manpower while increasing fire power. 
Early in 1944 the standard infantry divi- 
sion had been formally reduced from 
about 17,000 men to i2,500. 44 By cut- 
ting each of the conventional three infan- 
try regiments to two rifle battalions apiece 
and by thinning the organic service troops, 
the volks grenadier divisions were further 
reduced to about 10,000 men. Attempts 
were made to arm two platoons in each 
company with the 1944. model machine 
pistol (known to Americans as the burp 
gun), increase the amount of field artil- 
lery, and provide a larger complement 
of antitank weapons and assault guns 
(self-propelled tank destroyers). Approx- 
imately three fourths of the divisional 
transportation was horse drawn, while one 
unit, the Fuesilier battalion, had bicycles. 

To supplement divisional artillery and 
antitank guns, Hitler ordered formation 



44 The 1944-type division and other divisional 
organizations are discussed in Gordon A. Harri- 
son, Cross-Channel Attack, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 
195O, PP- 236-41- 



16 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



of a number of general headquarters 
(Heeres) units; 12 motorized artillery 
brigades (about 1,000 guns), 10 Werjer 
(rocket projector) brigades, 10 assault 
gun battalions, and 12 20-mm. machine 
gun battalions. These were to be ready 
along with the last of the 25 volks 
grenadier divisions. In addition, Hitler 
on 4 September assigned the West priority 
on all new artillery and assault guns. 

Two other steps were of a more immedi- 
ate nature. As the month of September 
opened, 10 panzer brigades were either 
just arriving at the front or were being 
formed. These were built around a pan- 
zer battalion equipped with about forty 
Mark V (Panther) tanks. On the theory 
that the Mark V was tactically superior to 
the U.S. Sherman tank, the panzer bri- 
gades were expected to make up tempo- 
rarily for Allied numerical superiority in 
armor. 

The other step was to commit to battle 
approximately a hundred "fortress" in- 
fantry battalions made up of the older 
military classes and heretofore used only in 
rear areas. About four fifths of these 
were to be assigned to the West. Calling 
the battalions a "hidden reserve," the First 
U.S. Army later was to credit them with 
much of the German tenacity in the West 
Wall. 48 

Had Allied commanders been aware of 
the enemy's necessity to resort to expedi- 
ents like these, it probably would have fed 
their optimism. Neither could they have 
been impressed by the command situation 
as it had developed at the top level. After 
the reverses on the Eastern Front during 
1941-42, Hitler had assumed more and 
more the role of supreme military leader, 
so that by the fall of 1944 the concept of 



45 FUSA AAR, Oct. 44. 



maneuver had been all but stultified by 
a complete centralization of command. 
Hardly anybody could do anything with- 
out first consulting Hitler. After the 
unsuccessful attempt on his life in July, he 
looked upon almost every proposal from a 
field commander with unalloyed suspicion. 

To reach the supreme military leader, 
field commanders in the West had to 
go through a central headquarters in Ber- 
lin, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht 
(OKW), which was charged with opera- 
tions in all theaters except the East. 
[Oberkommando des Heeres — OKH — 
watched over the Eastern Front.) Hit- 
ler's impression of the situation thus 
stemmed directly from a staff far removed 
from the scene of action. 

OB WEST, the headquarters in the 
West that was comparable to SHAEF, 
was a supreme headquarters in theory 
only, for the ties imposed by OKW were 
stringent. The jealousies that played 
among the Army, the Luftwaffe, the Navy, 
the Waffen-SS, and Nazi party political 
appointees also limited OB WEST's inde- 
pendence. 

Hitler's order for early September to 
hold "under any conditions" a line from 
the Schelde estuary along the face of the 
West Wall and the western borders of 
Lorraine and Alsace had shown little 
appreciation of the difficulties facing OB 
WEST. This was despite the fact that 
Field Marshal Model, who had preceded 
Rundstedt as Commander in Chief West, 
had done his best to convey some sense of 
the crisis by sending report after report 
couched in dire terms. The retreating 
troops, Model had warned, possessed few 
heavy weapons and little else except car- 
bines and rifles. Few of the eleven panzer 
divisions had more than five to ten tanks 
in working order. Artillery in both in- 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



17 





Field Marshal Model Field Marshal von Rundstedt 



fantry and panzer divisions was almost a 
thing of the past. The troops were 
depressed by Allied superiority in planes 
and tanks and by the contrast between 
their own horse-drawn transport and the 
motors of their enemy. In Alsace a wide 
gap had developed between the two groups 
of armies that could not be filled with less 
than three fresh infantry divisions. Hardly 
had Model reported this gap than he 
wrote it off as no longer of primary con- 
cern. The entire Western Front, he 
pleaded, needed propping up lest it give 
way completely. 46 

On 4 September Model had given a 
detailed appraisal of the front of Army 
Group B, which Model himself com- 



48 Heeresgruppe B (hereafter cited as A Gp B), 
Lagebeurteilungen, la. 



manded in addition to his major post as 
Commander in Chief West. His army 
group alone, Model had said, needed a 
minimum of 25 fresh infantry divisions 
and 5 or 6 panzer divisions. 4V 

To this plea Model received not even the 
courtesy of a reply. It was at this point 
that he was replaced in the top half 
of his dual command responsibility by 
Rundstedt. 

Field Marshal von Rundstedt's return 
to his former command on 5 September 
came on the heels of personal indoctrina- 
tion from Hitler. The Allies, Hitler had 
told him, were outrunning their supplies 
and soon would have to halt, at which 
time counterattacks could cut off the 
"armored spearheads" and stabilize the 



41 Ibid. 



18 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



front. The West Wall, Hitler insisted, 
had all the elements of impregnability and 
would afford the much-needed respite. 
Hitler's final instructions were much like 
the earlier order to hold "under any con- 
ditions." Rundstedt was to stop the Allies 
as far to the west as possible, then was to 
counterattack along the boundary be- 
tween the two army groups into the south 
flank of the Third U.S. Army. 48 

After assuming command in the main 
OB WEST command post near Koblenz, 
Rundstedt's most urgent problem was the 
restoration of a collective strategy for the 
whole of the Western Front, something to 
which Model, in his preoccupation with 
Army Group B, had paid scant attention. 
Rundstedt correctly held out little hope 
for the counterattack; for continued ad- 
vances by the Third Army denied mount- 
ing one in any appreciable strength. Yet 
the very fact that any troops were on hand 
to counterattack lessened this particular 
threat. He could see no solution for two 
other threats: one against the Ruhr, par- 
ticularly via Aachen, and another in un- 
committed Allied airborne forces, which 
he expected might attack either in rear 
of the West Wall or east of the Rhine. 

Rundstedt's first estimate of the situa- 
tion, forwarded to OKW on 7 September, 
echoed Model's pessimistic reports. After 
emphasizing the overwhelming Allied su- 

~~ 48 MS # T-122, Geschichte des "Oberbefehls- 
haber West," edited by Generalleutnant Bodo 
Zimmermann (G-3, OB WEST), hereafter cited 
as MS # T-122 (Zimmermann et al.) , Part II, 
Kampf in Belgien und Holland von Mitte Sep- 
tember-Mitte December 1944. MSS # T-121, 
122, and 123 — History of OB WEST — make up 
a million-word manuscript prepared in part by 
Zimmermann, in part by generals and general 
staff officers associated with OB WEST, OKW, 
OKH, OKL, OKM, and various subordinate 
commands. No page numbers are cited because 
the manuscripts exist in several differently 
paginated versions. 



periority in divisions and in armor, Rund- 
stedt insisted on the immediate need of at 
least five, "and better ten," infantry 
divisions. He needed tanks and tank 
destroyers desperately, he said, to counter 
the threat at Aachen. At the moment 
the only reserves of any description were 
a "weak" gth Panzer Division, a "weak" 
Sturm panzer battalion, and two assault 
gun brigades. All of these already were 
on the way to Aachen. 49 

The answer from Berlin must have been 
as frustrating to Rundstedt as earlier 
responses had been to Model. Spike 
down the front as far to the west as 
possible. Pull out the shattered divisions 
for reconstitution. Counterattack into 
the flank of the Third U.S. Army. No 
promise of any immediate assistance. As 
the American First Army noted, "The 
moment called for a real soldier." 50 

Subsequent events might prove that in 
Field Marshal von Rundstedt the moment 
had found the soldier it called for. The 
German situation in the West was bad, 
even desperate. Yet it was a situation 
that a strong leader still might make some- 
thing of. 

The true German .situation was perhaps 
most aptly described by one of the few 
voices of caution raised on the Allied side 
during the halcyon days of pursuit. On 
28 August the Third Army G-2 had put 
it this way: 

Despite the crippling factors of shattered 
communications, disorganization and tre- 
mendous losses in personnel and equipment, 
the enemy nevertheless has been able to 
maintain a sufficiently cohesive front to 
exercise an overall control of his tactical 
situation. His withdrawal, though continu- 
ing, has not been a rout or mass collapse. 
Numerous new identifications in contact in 

40 A Gp B, Lagebeurteilungen, la. 
50 FUSA AAR, Sep 44. 



THE ROAD TO GERMANY 



19 



recent days have demonstrated clearly that, 
despite the enormous difficulties under which 
he is operating, the enemy is still capable 
of bringing new elements into the battle 
area and transferring some from other 
fronts .... 

It is clear from all indications that the 
fixed determination of the Nazis is to wage a 
last-ditch struggle in the field at all costs. 
It must be constantly kept in mind that 
fundamentally the enemy is playing for time. 
Weather will soon be one of his most potent 
Allies as well as terrain, as we move east to 
narrowing corridors . . . . B1 

The fact was that the German penchant 
and respect for organization and discipline 
had preserved organization at the head- 
quarters levels basically intact. Though 
some top commanders and many staff 
officers had been lost, the Germans still 
had enough capable senior officers to re- 
place them. Nor had the Germans as a 
nation resorted to total mobilization before 
the fall of 1944. 52 



51 TUSA G-2 Estimate 9, 28 Aug 44, TUSA 
AAR, Vol. II. 

52 See Charles V. P. von Luttichau, The 
Ardennes Offensive, Germany's Situation in the 
Fall of 1944, Part III, The Strategic Situation, 
MS in OCMH. 



This is not to say, the Germans had not 
full justification for alarm as the first 
patrols crossed their border. The situa- 
tion still was chaotic, but the ingredients 
for stabilization were present. In the 
north, for example, opposite the British 
and the First U.S. Army, though the 
Seventh and Fifteenth Armies were skele- 
tons, the army and corps staffs still 
functioned and each army had at least ten 
division staffs capable of attempting to 
execute tactical assignments. Upon news 
of the fall of Antwerp, Hitler had rushed 
to the Netherlands headquarters of a 
training command, the First Parachute 
Army, to fill a gap between the Seventh 
and Fifteenth Armies. Though the First 
Parachute Army brought with it little 
more than its own headquarters, it was 
able in a matter of days to borrow, con- 
fiscate from the retreating masses, or 
otherwise obtain functioning staffs of one 
corps and several divisions. Winning a 
war with a setup like this might be 
impossible, but it could be effective in 
stopping an overextended attacker long 
enough to permit creation of something 
better. 



CHAPTER II 



The First U.S. Army 



In crossing the German border, the 
First U.S. Army had added another justi- 
fication for its numerical name to that 
already earned in establishing the first 
American foothold in Normandy. After 
the landings, the First Army had forged 
the gap through which the more flamboy- 
ant Third Army had poured from the 
beachhead. Not to be outdone, the First 
Army also had taken up the pursuit, with 
less fanfare than its sister army, perhaps, 
but with equally concrete results. In less 
than a month and a half the First Army 
had driven from St. L6 to Paris, thence 
northward to Mons, thence eastward to 
the German border, a distance of approxi- 
mately 750 miles. \(See Map~rj] This 
it had accomplished against the bulk of 
the German forces, including German 
armor, still opposing an American army in 
northern France. 

At the beginning of September the First 
Army numbered 256,351 officers and men. 
It had 3 corps made up of 5 infantry 
divisions, 3 armored divisions, and 3 mech- 
anized cavalry groups. The 8 combat 
divisions were almost at full strength: 
109,517 officers and men. Also a part of 
the army were 9 separate tank battalions 
(7 medium, 2 light), 12 tank destroyer 
battalions, 31 antiaircraft battalions (in- 
cluding automatic weapons and gun bat- 
talions ) , 3 field artillery observation 
battalions, 46 separate field artillery 
battalions, 3 chemical (mortar) battalions, 



and a number of engineer, signal, quarter- 
master, and other service units. 1 

Though the First Army's strength in 
medium tanks was a theoretical 1,010, 
only some 85 percent was actually on 
hand. Many of even these were badly in 
need of maintenance following the rapid 
dash across France and Belgium. The 3d 
Armored Division, for example, reported 
on 18 September that of an authorized 
medium tank strength of 232, only 70 to 
75 were in condition for front-line duty. 2 

The commander of the First Army was 
a calm, dependable, painstaking tactician, 
Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges. After 
the manner of his predecessor in command 
of the First Army, General Bradley, Gen- 
eral Hodges was a "soldier's soldier," a 
title to which no other American army 
commander and few corps commanders in 
action in Europe at the time could lay 
more just claim. No other was more sin- 
cere and sympathetic toward his troops 
and none except Hodges and one corps 
commander had risen from the ranks. 3 
Though General Hodges had sought a 
commission at West Point, he had flunked 



1 1 2 th A Gp and FUSA G-i Daily Summaries, 
12 Sep 44; FUSA, Order of Battle, Combat 
Units, 20 Sep 44, FUSA G-2 TAC Misc file, 
Sep 44. Cf. Third Army strength as found in 
Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, p. 18. 

2 3d Armd Div AAR, Sep 44, and Combat 
Interv with 3d Armd Div G-4. 

3 Maj Gen Troy H. Middleton, VIII Corps. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



21 



out in geometry during his first year. A 
man of determination, as he was to dem- 
onstrate often during the fall of 1944, he 
had enlisted in the Army as an infantry 
private and had gained his commission 
only a year later than his former class- 
mates al the Military Academy. He 
served in the expedition against Pancho 
Villa in Mexico and was one of a small 
fraternity of top American commanders in 
World War II who had seen combat be- 
fore at a line company level, in the 
Mcusc-Argonne campaign of World War % 
Upon completion of a stint of occupa- 
tion duty after World War I, General 
Hodges had served the usual tours of 
troop duty in the United States and 
attended the Army schools. During ad- 
ditional service in the Philippines his path 
crossed that of the future Supreme Com- 
mander in Europe. Later he served suc- 
cessively as assistant commandant and 
commandant of The Infantry School. In 
1 94 1 General George C. Marshall, Chief 
of Staff, who had first been impressed 
with Hodges while he himself was assistant 
commandant of The Infantry School, 
brought Hodges to Washington as Chief 
of Infantry. His performance as an 
administrator ahead y proved, General 
Hodges showed his ability as a field 
commander while directing the Third 
Army during the 1943 Louisiana ma- 
neuvers. 

In early 1944 General Hodges had left 
for England to become deputy commander 
of General Bradley's First Army and to 
direct the training and co-ordination of 
the various corps and divisions readying 
for D-Day. It was a foregone conclusion 
that Hodges would take over when 
Bradley moved upstairs. On 1 August he 
had become commanding general of the 
First Army. 



General Hodges 

General Hodges was fifty-seven years 
old at the start of the Siegfried Line 
Campaign. Tall, erect, his moustache 
closely clipped, he was an impressive- 
looking soldier. Averse to tumult and glit- 
ter, he preferred restrained behavior to 
publicity- provoking eccentricities. Disci- 
pline, General Hodges maintained, could 
be achieved without shouting. 

A close friend of the Third Army's 
General Patton, Hodges shared Patton's 
enthusiasm for what machines and big 
guns could do for his infantrymen. The 
First Army almost always had more 
medium tanks than did the Third Army, 
despite the myth that the Third was "top- 
heavy with armor." That Hodges knew 
how to use tanks had been demonstrated 
amply during the pursuit. He was also 
alert to what artillery could do. General 
Hodges worked no more closely with nor 



22 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Thirteen Commanders of the Western Front photographed in Belgium, 10 Octo- 
ber 1944. Front row, left to right: General Patton, General Bradley, General Eisenhower, Gen- 
eral Hodges, Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson. Second row: Maj. Gen. William B. Kean, Maj. 
Gen. Charles E. Corletl, Maj. Gen, J. Law ton Collins, Maj. Gen. Leonard P. Gerow, Maj. 
Gen. Elwood R. Quesada. Third row: Maj. Gen. Leven C. Allen, Brig. Gen. Charles C. Hart, 
Brig. Gen. Truman C. Thrson. 



depended more on the advice of any man 
on his staff than his chief of artillery, 
Brig. Gen. Charles E. Hart. 4 

The First Army headquarters under 
General Hodges was vitally concerned 
with precision and detailed planning. 
"When you did a situation report for the 

4 Interv with Maj Gen Truman C. Thorson, 
former G-3, FUSA, ia Sep 56; Sylvan Diary, 
passim. 



Third Army," said a former corps G-3, 
"you showed the positions of the regi- 
ments. When you did one for the First 
Army, you had to show platoons." 6 The 
army's concern for detail was clearly re- 
flected in the presence within the office of 
the Assistant G-3 for Plans and Opera- 
tions alone of sixteen liaison officers 



5 Interv with Brig Gen John G. Hill, former 
G-3,VGorp£, 15 Oct 54. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



23 



equipped with jeep and radio. 6 "A good 
army headquarters," General Hodges' 
G-3 believed, "is always right on top of 
the corps and divisions, else you cannot 
carry out the orders and wishes of the 
commander." 7 

The staff which General Hodges in- 
herited from General Bradley was basically 
intact at the start of September. Possibly 
reflecting the primary interest of both 
Bradley and Hodges, it was strong in 
infantry officers. 

The chief of staff was a specialist in the 
role, a forty-seven-year-old infantryman, 
Maj. Gen. William B. Kean. General 
Bradley had brought General Kean along 
from earlier service as chief of staff of an 
infantry division to fill the same role, first 
with the II Corps in Tunisia and Sicily, 
and later with the First Army. Kean 
became "very close" to General Hodges as 
adviser and confidant and "a leading 
light" in the First Army headquarters. 
"It was Kean," one of his associates re- 
called, "who would crack the whip. We 
called him 'Old Sam Bly.'" 8 Both the 
G-2, Col. Benjamin A. Dickson, and the 
G-3, Brig. Gen. Truman C. Thorson, also 
were infantrymen. 9 

Like almost all American units in action 
at this stage, the corps and divisions under 
the First Army's command were thor- 
oughly seasoned. Two of the g corps and 
6 of the 8 divisions would provide the 
nucleus of the First Army through almost 
all of the Siegfried Line Campaign. 

Weakest numerically of the three corps 
was the XIX Corps under Maj. Gen. 

6 Interv with Col R. F. Akers, former Asst 
G-3, FUSA, n Jun 56. 

7 Interv with Thorson. 

8 Ibid. 

9 The G-i was Col. Joseph J. O'Hare; the 
G-4, Col. Robert W. Wilson; the G- 5 , Col. 
Damon M. Gunn. 



Charles H. Corlett, an infantryman who 
had gained combat experience earlier in 
World War II as a commander of the 7 th 
Division in the Pacific. Under General 
Corlett the XIX Corps had become opera- 
tional on 14 June. The corps had helped 
pave the way for the breakout of the 
original beachhead, fend off the enemy's 
desperate counterattack at Mortain, and 
close both the Argentan-Falaise and Mons 
pockets. On 1 1 September the XIX 
Corps had but two divisions — the 30th 
Infantry and 2d Armored, plus the 113th 
Cavalry Group and supporting troops. 
Unfortunately, General Corlett was not 
physically at his best during the summer 
and fall of 1944. 

The VII Corps, which had assaulted 
Utah Beach on D-Day and captured 
Cherbourg, was under Maj. Gen. J. Law- 
ton Collins. Collins was an infantryman 
who had gained battle experience and a 
nickname — Lightning Joe — as an infantry 
division commander on Guadalcanal and 
New Georgia. Like the Third Army's 
General Patton, Collins was a dynamic, 
driving personality whose opinions often 
exerted more than the normal influence at 
the next higher level of command. At the 
time of the drive into Germany, the major 
units of the VII Corps were the 4th 
Cavalry Group, the 1st and 9th Infantry 
Divisions, and the 3d Armored Division. 

Completing the triangle of corps was 
the V Corps under Maj. Gen. Leonard 
T. Gerow. Like the other corps com- 
manders, General Gerow was a veteran 
infantryman. He had spent the early 
days of the war with the War Plans 
Division of the War Department General 
Staff and as commander of an infantry 
division in the United States. Two of the 
more notable accomplishments of the V 
Corps were the D-Day landing on Omaha 



24 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Beach and the liberation of Paris. On 1 1 
September the corps controlled the i02d 
Cavalry Group, the 4th and 28th Infantry 
Divisions, and the 5th Armored Division. 

Though almost all the infantry and 
armored divisions of the First Army were 
at or near full strength in mid-September, 
the army faced a handicap both at the 
start and all the way through the Siegfried 
Line Campaign in a lack of a reserve 
combat force. On occasion, a separate 
infantry battalion or a combat command 
of armor occupying a secondary defensive 
line would be called a reserve, but no one 
could accept these designations as other 
than nominal. 

It could be said that the First Army had 
a fourth corps in an old ally, the IX 
Tactical Air Command, a component of 
the Ninth Air Force. Commanded by 
Maj. Gen. Elwood R. (Pete) Quesada, 
the IX TAC was the oldest unit of its kind 
in the theater and long ago had established 
with the First Army "an indissoluble 
operational partnership." 10 When Gen- 
eral Hodges' headquarters settled down 
for the fall campaign in the Belgian town 
of Spa, General Quesada moved in next 
door. Air officers attended First Army 
briefings, and vice versa. For all the 
difficulties of weather that were to plague 
the airmen during the Siegfried Line 
Campaign, ground commanders were to 
continue to pay tribute to the close and 
effective co-operation they received from 
the IX TAC. n 

Like divisions attached to ground corps 
and armies, the fighter-bomber groups as- 
signed to tactical air commands often 



10 The Ninth Air Force and Its Principal 
Commands in the ETO, Vol. II, Pt. I. 

11 See, for example, testimony in Operational 
History of the Ninth Air Force, Book V, Ground 
Forces Annexes. 



varied. On occasion, the IX TAC con- 
trolled as many as eighteen groups, but 
usually the number averaged about six. 12 
A group normally had three squadrons of 
twenty-five planes each, P-38's (Light- 
nings), P-47's (Thunderbolts), or P-51's 
(Mustangs), except in the case of night 
fighter groups, which had P-61's (Black 
Widows) . 

Requests for air support usually were 
forwarded from the air support officers at 
division through the air support officer and 
G— 3 Air Section at corps to the G— 3 Air 
at army for transmission to the IX TAC. 
The air headquarters ruled on the feasi- 
bility of the mission and assigned the 
proper number of aircraft to it. Since 
air targets could not always be antici- 
pated, most divisions came to prefer a 
system of "armed reconnaissance flights" 
in which a group was assigned to the 
division or corps for the day and checked 
in by radio directly with the appropriate 
air support officer. Thus the planes 
could be called in as soon as a target 
appeared without the delay involved in 
forwarding a request through channels. 13 

Available also for direct support of the 
ground troops were the eleven groups of 
medium bombers of the IX Bombardment 
Division (Maj. Gen. Samuel E. Ander- 
son), another component of the Ninth Air 
Force. Each of these groups normally 
employed thirty-six planes, either B-26's 
(Marauders) or A-20's (Havocs), which 

12 As of 30 September, the IX TAC com- 
manded the 368th, 370th, 404th, and 474th 
Fighter-Bomber Groups and the 67th Tactical 
Reconnaissance Group. 

13 Ninth Air Force, Vol. I, Ch. VII. For a 
detailed study of air-ground liaison, see Kent 
Roberts Greenfield, Army Ground Forces and the 
Air-Ground Battle Team Including Organic 
Light Aviation, Army Ground Forces Study No. 
35, Historical Section, Army Ground Forces, 1948. 
Copy in OCMH. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



25 



bombed from altitudes of 10,000 to 12,000 
feet. 11 Though the mediums sometimes 
made valuable contributions to direct 
support, they were used for the purpose 
somewhat infrequently, both because it 
was hard to find targets large enough to be 
easily spotted yet small enough to assure a 
good concentration of bombs and because 
the request for medium support had to be 
approved by the 12 th Army Group G-3 
Air Section and took from forty-eight to 
seventy-two hours to come through. 15 

Weapons and Equipment 

The weapons and equipment with 
which the American soldier was to fight 
the Siegfried Line Campaign might have 
needed repair and in some cases replace- 
ment after the ravages of Normandy and 
the pursuit, but in general the soldier's 
armament and equipment were the envy 
of his adversary. Indeed, the theory 
which German officers and soldiers were 
to perpetuate to explain their defeat in 
World War II, in much the same way 
they blamed lack of perserverance on the 
home front for the outcome of World 
War I, was the superiority of American 
and Allied materiel. 16 

It is axiomatic that the American soldier 
in World War II was the best-paid and 
best-fed soldier of any army up to that 
time. He clearly was among the best- 

14 IX Bomb Div, Medium Bombardment — Its 
Use in Ground Support, copy in History, IX 
Bomb Div, Nov-Dec 44. 

15 Ninth Air Force, Vol. I, Ch. VII. Though 
the masses of Allied heavy bombers were used on 
one occasion during the Siegfried Line Campaign 
for direct support of the ground troops, their role 
was primarily strategic and the effects on the 
ground fighting difficult to specify. 

16 Wartime prisoner of war interrogations and 
postwar manuscripts by German officers provide 
ample evidence of German belief in this theory. 



clothed as well, even though controversy 
would rage later about the adequacy of 
his winter clothing. 17 In the matter of 
armament also American research and 
production had done exceedingly well by 
him. On the other hand, his adversary 
likewise possessed, qualitatively, at least, 
an impressive arsenal. 

The basic shoulder weapon in the U.S. 
Army during the Siegfried Line Campaign 
was the .30-caliber Mi (Garand) rifle, a 
semiautomatic piece much admired by its 
users. Though the Germans possessed a 
few similar models, their basic individual 
piece was a 7. 9 2 -mm. (Mauser) bolt- 
action rifle not greatly different from the 
U.S. Mi 903. Two favorite weapons of 
the American soldier were outgrowths of 
World War I, the .30-caliber Browning 
Automatic Rifle (BAR) and the .30- 
caliber Browning machine gun in both 
light (air-cooled) and heavy (water- 
cooled) models. The most effective close- 
range antitank weapons were, on the 
German side, a one-shot, shaped-charge 
piece called a panzerfaust, and, on 
the American side, a 2.36-inch rocket 
launcher, the bazooka. The most widely 
used artillery pieces of both combatants 
were light and medium howitzers, German 
and American models of which were 
roughly comparable in caliber and per- 
formance. 18 

17 See Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies, Vol. II, pp. 218-35. 

18 This account is based primarily on Research 
and Development Service, Office of the Chief of 
Ordnance, Comparison of American, German, 
and Japanese Ordnance, 6 May 1945, Vols. I and 
II. A comprehensive study and comparison of 
American and German weapons and equipment 
will be included in Ordnance Overseas, a volume 
in preparation in the Ordnance subseries of THE 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR 
II. The German infantry division, like the 
American, had four artillery battalions — three 



26 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 






Captured Panzerfaust 



German artillery doctrine and organiza- 
tion for the control and delivery of fire 
differed materially from the American only 
in that the German organic divisional 
artillery was less well equipped for com- 
munication. The excellent American fa- 
cilities of communication down to battery 
level, and the effective operation of the 
American fire direction centers on many 
occasions permitted more accurate fire and 
greater concentration in a shorter time. 
But the shortcomings of the enemy in the 
matter of effective concentrations during 
this campaign were largely attributable to 
the effects of war — loss of air observation, 



light and one medium. The German pieces 
were gun-howitzers ( 105-mm. light, and 150-mm. 
medium); the American pieces were howitzers 
(103-mm. and 155-mm.). 



shortages of ammunition and equipment, 
damage done to the artillery system, high 
casualties among skilled artillerists, and 
the disruption of smooth teamwork — 
rather than to deficiences of doctrine and 
organization. 111 

Both sides had the same excellent 
1/25,000 metric scale maps of the area, 
reproduced from those originally made by 
the French Army, showing roads, rail- 
roads, contour lines, towns, and forests. 
To offset superior knowledge of the terrain 
that the Germans enjoyed, the Americans, 
controlling the air, had the advantage of 
aerial photographs, and they could use 
their artillery spotter planes while the 



15 Charles V. P. von Luttichau, Notes oa 
German and U.S. Artillery, copy in OCMH. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



27 



Germans could not. The simple little 
monoplane that the Americans used for 
artillery observation appeared, in relation 
to contemporary fighters and bombers, to 
be an example of retarded development, a 
throwback to the aircraft of World War I. 
It was the L-4 (in some cases, L-5), 
variously called a Piper Cub, cub, liaison 
plane, grasshopper, or observation plane. 
Though its most significant role was as the 
eyes of the field artillery, it performed 
various other tasks, such as courier and 
liaison service, visual and photographic 
observation, emergency supply, and emer- 
gency evacuation of wounded. Not only 
the artilleryman but the infantryman and 
armored soldier as well swore by it, while 
the Germans swore at it. The very pres- 
ence of one of the little planes aloft often 
silenced the German artillery. American 
air superiority permitted their consistent 
use, and also gave the Americans the bene- 
fit of air photographs made almost daily 
behind the German lines from the faster 
planes of the Army Air Forces. The 
photographs were made available to 
American artillerymen to identify pillboxes 
and other defensive installations of the 
enemy. 

In the matter of tanks the Americans 
possessed no such advantage. Their 
standard tank, the M4 Sherman, a 33-ton 
medium, was relatively obsolescent. Al- 
though a few Shermans equipped with a 
high-velocity 76-mm. gun in place of the 
usual short-barreled 75 were to become 
available during the Siegfried Line Cam- 
paign, most medium tanks still mounted 
the 75. They plainly were outgunned, 

20 For a detailed study of the liaison plane, see 
Kent Roberts Greenfield, Army Ground Forces 
and the Air-Ground Battle Team, AGF Study 
No. 35; I. B. Holley, Evolution of the Liaison 
Type Airplane, 19 17-1944, USAF Historical 
Studies 1946. 



not only by the enemy's heaviest tank, the 
63-ton Mark VI (Tiger), but also by the 
50-ton Mark V (Panther). 21 The Tiger, 
the Panther, and the medium Mark IV all 
had thicker armor than the Sherman. 
Equipped with wider tracks than the 
Sherman, the enemy tanks likewise pos- 
sessed greater flotation and thus on occa- 
sion might vitiate a superiority in mobility 
which U.S. tanks possessed when on firm 
ground. The only advantages left to the 
Sherman were superiority in numbers, 
comparatively easy maintenance, and 
greater flexibility and rapidity of fire as a 
result of a gyrostabilizer and power 
traverse. 22 

Some equalization 'in the matter of tank 
and antitank gunnery was to be provided 
in November when a considerable number 
of U.S. self-propelled tank destroyer bat- 
talions were to receive new vehicles. In 
place of the Mio destroyer with its 3-inch 
gun, the units were to receive M36 
vehicles mounting a high- velocity 90-mm. 
piece. Though the 90-mm. had long been 
a standard antiaircraft weapon, its pres- 
ence on the actual firing line was in the 
nature of an innovation. 

Other than tanks, the German weapons 
which would most impress the American 
soldier in the campaign were the burp 
gun, the Nebelwerfer, and the 88. Two 
of these — the burp gun and the 88 — he 
had met before and had long since ac- 
corded a ubiquitousness neither deserved. 
The burp gun — so-called because of a 
distinctive emetic b-r-r-r-r-p sound attrib- 
utable to a higher cyclic rate of fire than 



21 An American heavy tank did not reach the 
theater until 1945 and then in relatively insig- 
nificant numbers. 

22 Cole, in The Lorraine Campaign, pages 
603-04, compares characteristics of German and 
American tanks during the fall of 1944. 



28 




Captured Nf.delwf.rfer 



American automatic weapons — was an 
individual piece, a machine pistol, similar 
to the U.S. Thompson submachine gun. 
Because the standard German machine 
gun made a similar emetic sound, it 
seemed to the American soldier that burp 
guns were all over the place. The 88 — an 
88- mm., high-velocity, dual-purpose anti- 
aircraft and antitank piece — had been 
accorded the respect of the American 
soldier since North Africa. A standard 
held piece in the German army and the 
standard weapon of the Mark VI Tiger 
tank, the 88 was nevertheless not nearly so 
plentiful as reports from the American side 
would indicate. A shell from almost any 
high-velocity German weapon the Ameri- 
can attributed to the 88. 

The Nebelwerfer was a newer weapon, 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 

one which had seen some service in 
Normandy but which came into general 
use only at the start of the Siegfried Line 
campaign as the Germans called upon it 
to supplement their depleted artillery. It 
was a multiple-barrel, 150-mm. mortar, 
mounted on wheels and fired electrically. 
The screeching sound of its projectiles in 
flight earned for it the nickname, Scream- 
ing Meemie. The U.S. equivalent, a 4.5- 
inch rocket launcher, was not used widely 
until later in the war. 

The Terrain, and the West Wall 

In less than a fortnight the forces in the 
north — the First Army and the 21 Army 
Group — had driven the enemy almost 
entirely from two countries: the kingdom 
of Belgium, approximately the size of the 
state of Maryland, and the grand duchy 
of Luxembourg, somewhat smaller than 
Rhode Island. In the process they had 
jumped a number of major obstacles, like 
the Escaut and Meuse Rivers and the 
Belgian and Luxembourgian Ardennes; 
but the path ahead was fai from smooth. 

The strategic goal of the forces in the 
north, the Ruhr industrial area, lay about 
seventy-five miles away. Germany's most 
important concentrated mining and indus- 
trial region, the Ruhr had grown up east 
of the Rhine largely after 1870. It em- 
braces major cities like Essen, Dortmund, 
and Duesseldorf. An elliptical-shaped 
basin, it measures some fifty miles at its 
base along the Rhine and about seventy 
miles in depth. 

The terrain next to be encountered on 
the march to the Ruhr can be divided into 
four geographical sectors i ( 1 ) Opposite 
the left wing of the 21 Army Group, the 
Dutch Islands and the Dutch littoral, most 
of it land reclaimed from the sea and at 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



29 



this stage studded with fortifications 
denying seaward access to the prize of 
Antwerp. (2) In front of the 21 Army 
Group's right wing, the flatlands of the 
Netherlands, crisscrossed by waterways, 
including three major rivers, the Maas 
(Dutch equivalent of the Meuse), the 
Waal (a downstream branch of the 
Rhine), and the Neder Rijn (Lower 
Rhine). (3) Facing the left wing of the 
First U.S. Army, the Aachen Gap, 
guarded by the sentinel city of Aachen but 
affording access to an open plain leading 
all the way to the Rhine. (4) Opposite 
the right wing of the First Army, the Eifel, 
forested highlands whose division from the 
Ardennes is political rather than geo- 
graphical. 

Of the four sectors, the Dutch islands 
and the Dutch littoral, for all their im- 
portance to the use of Antwerp, offered 
little toward an advance on the Ruhr. 
Despite some major obstacles, the other 
three regions had greater possibilities. 

The waterways of the Netherlands, like 
those which earlier had prompted Allied 
planners to rule out the plain of Flanders 
as a major route, might forestall a normal 
military advance; but the British already 
had proved in Flanders that in pursuit 
warfare waterways may not be a serious 
deterrent. As with Flanders, the rewards 
of success were tempting. The great 
Dutch ports of Amsterdam and Rotter- 
dam might fall, the West Wall might be 
outflanked, the Rhine left behind, and the 
British positioned for envelopment of the 
Ruhr from the north via the North Ger- 
man Plain. On the other hand, defense 
of the east-west waterways was facilitated 
by a shortage of major roads and railroads 
leading north and northeast. 

To the southeast, the Aachen Gap is a 
historic gateway into Germany dating 



from early Christendom. It was a major 
east-west route during the height of the 
Roman Empire when the old Roman 
highway ran slightly north of Aachen 
on a line Brussels-Maastricht-Cologne. 
Birthplace and reputed burial place of the 
Emperor Charlemagne and capital of the 
Carolingian Empire, Aachen had a prewar 
population of 165,710. Its military value 
lies in the roads that spread out from the 
city in all directions. In 1944 the city 
had an added military significance as a key 
to the second most heavily fortified por- 
tion of the West Wall. 

The only troops in the Aachen region 
still to cross the major obstacle of the 
Meuse River were the divisions of the XIX 
Corps, which were approaching the city of 
Maastricht in the province of Limburg, 
which the Americans called "the Dutch 
Panhandle." At the border of Germany, 
the XIX Corps would have to cross a 
minor stream, the Wurm River, which 
German engineers had exploited as an 
antitank barrier for the West Wall. But 
once past the Wurm, the terrain is open 
plain studded by mining and farming 
villages and broken only by the lines of the 
Roer and Erft Rivers. Weakest of the 
First Army's three corps and the only one 
forced to undergo a handicap because of 
the gasoline drought, the XIX Corps was 
the unit most directly oriented along the 
route of the old Roman highway north of 
Aachen, the route which represents the 
most literal interpretation of the term 
Aachen Gap. 

South of the XIX Corps, the VII Corps 
was headed directly for Aachen and for a 
narrow corridor of rolling hills between 
Aachen and the northern reaches of the 
Eifel. For convenience this corridor may 
be called, after an industrial town within 
it, the Stolberg Corridor. It leads onto 



30 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the Roer plain near the town of Dueren 
(population: 45,441), nineteen miles east 
of Aachen. The fringe of the Eifel is 
clothed in a dense jungle of pines, a major 
obstacle that could seriously canalize an 
advance along this route. Communica- 
tions through the forest are virtually non- 
existent. Within the forest a few miles to 
the south lie two dams of importance in 
control of the waters of the Roer River, 
the Schwammenauel and the Urft. 

Some of the hardest fighting of the 
Siegfried Line Campaign was to occur in 
the region toward which the XIX and VII 
Corps were heading. It is a fan-shaped 
sector with a radius of twenty-two miles 
based on the city of Aachen. The span is 
the contour of the Roer River, winding 
northeast, north, and northwest from 
headwaters near Monschau to a conflu- 
ence with the Wurm River near Heinsberg. 

Southeast of the VII Corps zone lay the 
heartland of the Eifel, heavily forested 
terrain, sharply compartmentalized by nu- 
merous streams draining into the Moselle, 
the Meuse, and the Rhine . and traversed 
by a limited road and rail net. This was 
the region where the first patrols had 
crossed the German border. Not includ- 
ing the forested fringes between Aachen 
and Monschau, the Eifel extends some 
seventy air-line miles from Monschau to 
the vicinity of Trier. It is divided into 
two sectors: the High Eifel, generally 
along the border, and the Volcanic Eifel, 
farther east where the ground begins to 
slope downward toward the Rhine. One 
of the most prominent features within the 
High Eifel is a ridge — 2,286 feet high, 
running along the border a few miles east 
of St. Vith, Belgium — the Schnee Eifel. 
Entrance to the Eifel from Belgium and 
Luxembourg is blocked by the escarpment 
of the Schnee Eifel, by a continuous river 



line formed by the Our, Sauer, and 
Moselle Rivers, and by a high, marshy, 
windswept moor near Monschau called 
the Hohe Venn. Yet for all the difficul- 
ties of the terrain, German armies had 
turned the Eifel and the adjacent 
Ardennes to military advantage in both 
19 1 4 and 1940 and were to utilize it again 
in December 1944. 

During the late summer of 1944 Allied 
vision had stretched across the obstacles of 
terrain to gaze upon the Rhine; but few 
eyes could ignore a man-made obstacle 
which denied ready access to the river. 
This was the fortified belt extending along 
the western borders of Germany from the 
vicinity of Kleve on the Dutch frontier to 
Lorrach near Basle on the Swiss border. 
Americans knew it as the Siegfried Line. 
The nation that built it called it the West 
Wall. 23 

Construction of a West Wall first had 
begun in 1936 after Hitler had sent Ger- 
man troops back into a demilitarized 
Rhineland. It was originally to have been 
a short stretch of fortifications along the 

23 The name Siegfried Line, or Siegfriedstellung, 
originated in World War I. It was a German 
code name given to a rear defensive position 
established in 19 16 behind the central portion of 
the western front, from the vicinity of Arras to 
a point just east of Soissons. The position 
played an important role as the front line 
fluctuated during the last two years of the war. 
The Germans fell back on this line in early spring 
of 1 9 1 7 and from it launched their last great 
offensive in March 19 18. Unless otherwise 
noted, information on the West Wall is from the 
following: SHAEF Weekly Intel Summary 25 
for week ending 9 Sep 44; 12 th A Gp Weekly 
Intel Summaries 4 and 7 for weeks ending 26 Aug 
and 23 Sep 44, respectively; OB WEST, A Study 
in Command; German maps in OCMH; FUSA 
Rpt of Opns, pp. 51-54; VII Corps, Office of 
the Engineer, Initial Breaching of the Siegfried 
Line; Sidney Bradshaw Fay, West Wall, The 
Encyclopaedia Britannica (University of Chicago, 
1948 edition), Vol. 10, p. 243c. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



31 



Saar River, opposite the French Maginot 
Line. Unlike the French position, it was 
to be no thin line of gros ouvrages — 
elaborate, self-contained forts — but a band 
of many small, mutually supporting pill- 
boxes. 

Work on the West Wall had begun in 
earnest in May 1938, after Czechoslovakia 
had taken a somewhat defiant attitude 
toward German indications of aggression. 
The task went to Dr. Fritz Todt, an able 
engineer who had supervised construction 
of the nation's superhighways, the Reichs- 
autobahnen. By the end of September 
1938 more than 500,000 men were work- 
ing on the West Wall. Approximately 
a third of Germany's total annual produc- 
tion of cement went into the works. The 
new West Wall was to extend from a 
point north of Aachen all along the border 
south and southeast to the Rhine, thence 
along the German bank of the Rhine to 
the Swiss border. More than 3,000 con- 
crete pillboxes, bunkers, and observation 
posts were constructed. 

As much because of propaganda as 
anything else the West Wall came to be 
considered impregnable. It contributed 
to Hitler's success in bluffing France and 
England at Munich. In 1939, when 
Hitler's designs on Danzig strained Ger- 
man-Polish relations, Hitler ordered a film 
of the West Wall to be shown in all 
German cinemas to bolster home-front 
conviction that Germany was inviolate 
from the west. 

Although some additional work was 
done on the West Wall between 1938 and 
1940, Germany's quick victory in France 
and the need to shift the defenses of the 
Third Reich to the Atlantic and the 
Channel brought construction to a virtual 
halt. Not until 20 August 1944, when 
Hitler issued an eleventh-hour decree for 



a levy of "people's" labor, was any new 
effort made to strengthen the line. 

When the first American patrols probed 
the border, Allied intelligence on the West 
Wall was sketchy. Most reports on it 
dated back to 1940. Because four years 
of neglect had given the works a realistic 
camouflage, aerial reconnaissance failed to 
pick up many of the positions. 

The West Wall's value as a fortress 
had been vastly exaggerated by Hitler's 
propagandists, particularly as it stood in 
September 1944, after four years of neg- 
lect. In 1944 it was something of a 
Potemkin village. Dr. Todt and the 
German Army had never intended the line 
to halt an attack, merely to delay it until 
counterattacks by mobile reserves could 
eliminate any penetration. In early fall 
of 1944 no strong reserves existed. 

In 1939-40 any threatened sector of 
the line was to have been manned by an 
infantry division for every five miles of 
front. Adequate artillery had been avail- 
able. Although few of the pillboxes could 
accommodate guns of larger caliber than 
the 37-mm. antitank gun, this piece was 
standard and effective against the armor 
of the period. In 1944 the situation was 
different. The most glaring deficiency 
was lack of troops either to man the line 
or to counterattack effectively. Artillery 
was severely limited. Even the 75-mm. 
antitank gun, which could be mounted in 
a few of the pillboxes, was basically inade- 
quate to cope with the new, heavier armor. 
The smaller works could not accommo- 
date the standard 1942 model machine 
gun because embrasures had been con- 
structed for the 1934 model. Expecting 
to find a strong defensive position in 
being, the troops falling back on the 
West Wall from France and Belgium saw 
only a five-year old derelict. There were 



CONSTRUCTION OF PILLBOXES 
SIEGFRIED LINE 







LOCKER 




TROOP QUARTERS 






12- S" X 15*- 6" 




TROOP QUARTERS 


1..., j .,. . ■ — "■■ - i — '-=. 




9<-0" X ft-O" 



ARMS ROOM 
T'-6" X 13-0" 




Plan view of 
typical German pillbox 



REINFORCED- CONCRETE 



^53%&k jgEfeMS . ».e"o ._c. 



l.l"STEEL DOOR 



t.l" STEEL DOOR 



12" STEEL BEAM 



El 



, V |W(,, A \n 




Section of 
typical German pillbox 



34 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



no mines, no barbed wire, few communi- 
cations lines, and few fortress weapons. 
Field fortifications had been begun only at 
the last minute by well-intentioned but 
un-co-ordinated civilians. The West Wall 
in September 1944 was formidable pri- 
marily on the basis of an old, unearned 
reputation. 

The strongest portion of the line was 
the segment constructed in 1936 along the 
Saar River between the Moselle and the 
Rhine. Lying mainly in the zone of the 
Third U.S. Army, this portion would be 
spared until December because of the 
fighting in Lorraine. The next strongest 
portion was a double band of defenses 
protecting the Aachen Gap. Here the 
First U.S. Army already had reached the 
very gates. 

The extreme northern segment of the 
West Wall — from Geilenkirchen, about 
fifteen miles north of Aachen, to Kleve — 
consisted only of a thin, single belt of 
scattered pillboxes backing up natural 
obstacles. South of Geilenkirchen, the 
pillboxes began to appear in a definite 
pattern of clusters on a forward line 
backed up by occasional clusters a few 
hundred yards to the rear. At a point 
about halfway between Geilenkirchen and 
Aachen, the density of the pillboxes in- 
creased markedly and the line split into 
two bands about five miles apart. 
Aachen lay between the two. Though 
two bands still were in evidence in the 
forest south and southeast of Aachen, the 
pillboxes were in less density. At a point 
near the northern end of the Schnee 
Eifel, the two bands merged, to continue 
all the way south to Trier as a single line 
with pillboxes in medium to heavy density. 
The greatest concentration in the Eifel 
was near the southern end of the Schnee 



Eifel where the terrain is relatively open. 

In many places the West Wall depended 
for passive antitank protection upon na- 
tural obstacles like rivers, lakes, railroad 
cuts and fills, sharp defiles, and forest. 
In other places, the German engineers had 
constructed chains of "dragon's teeth," 
curious objects that looked like canted 
headstones in a strange cemetery. In some 
cases the dragon's teeth were no more 
than heavy posts or steel beams embedded 
in the ground, but usually they were 
pyramid-shaped reinforced concrete pro- 
jections. There were five rows of projec- 
tions, poured monolithic with a concrete 
foundation and increasing in height from 
two and a half feet in front to almost five 
feet in rear. The concrete foundation, 
which extended two and a half feet above 
the ground on the approach side, formed 
an additional obstacle. 

Roads leading through the dragon's 
teeth were denied usually by a double set 
of obstacles, one a gate and another three 
rows of steel beams embedded diagonally 
in a concrete foundation. The gate con- 
sisted of two 1 2 -inch H -beams welded 
together and hinged at one end to a 
reinforced concrete pillar. The beams 
could be swung into place horizontally 
and bolted to another concrete pillar on 
the opposite side of the road. The second 
obstacle consisted of three rows of 12 -inch 
H-beams offset like theater seats. Em- 
bedded in the concrete foundation at an 
angle of about 45 degrees, the beams were 
attached at their base by a flange connec- 
tion which hooked over an iron rod in the 
bottom of the recess. Though this and 
other obstacles conceivably could be 
removed or demolished by an attacking 
force, it presumably would prove difficult 
under fire from nearby pillboxes. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



35 



Pillboxes in general were 20 to 30 feet 
in width, 40 to 50 feet in depth, and 20 to 
25 feet in height. At least half of the 
pillbox was underground. The walls and 
roofs were 3 to 8 feet thick, of concrete 
reinforced by wire mesh and small steel 
rods and at times by heavy steel beams. 
Each pillbox had living quarters for its 
normal complement, usually about seven 
men per firing embrasure. Few had more 
than two firing embrasures, one spe- 
cifically sited to cover the entrance. 
Although fields of fire were limited, 
generally not exceeding an arc of 50 de- 
grees, pillboxes were mutually supporting. 

Bunkers usually were designed to house 
local reserves and command posts and had 
no firing embrasures except small rifle 
ports to cover the entrance. Bunkers 
used as observation posts usually were 
topped by a steel cupola. 

Most pillboxes and bunkers had several 
rooms, one or more for troop quarters 
and one or more either for ammunition 
storage or for firing. All were gasproof 
and equipped with hand-operated ventila- 
tion devices. Only a few installations had 
escape hatches. Heat might come from a 
small fireplace equipped with a tin chim- 
ney, both of which might be closed off by 
a heavy steel door. Each entrance usu- 
ally had a double set of case-hardened 
steel doors separated by a gasproof vesti- 
bule. Bunks were of the type found on 
troop ships, oblong metal frames covered 
with rope netting and suspended in tiers 
from the ceiling. Sanitary facilities were 
rarely provided. Though both electric 
and telephone wires had been installed 
underground, it is doubtful that these 
were functioning well in September 1944. 
Some installations were camouflaged to 
resemble houses and barns. Except in 



the sparse sector north of Geilenkirchen, 
pillbox density averaged approximately 
ten per mile. Most pillboxes were on 
forward slopes, usually 200 to 400 yards 
behind the antitank obstacles. 

Without question, these fortifications 
added to the defensive potentiality of the 
terrain along the German border; but 
their disrepair and the caliber of the de- 
fending troops had vitiated much of the 
line's formidability. It could in no sense 
be considered impregnable. Nevertheless, 
as American troops were to discover, steel 
and concrete can lend backbone to a 
defense, even if the fortifications are out- 
moded and even if the defenders are old 
men and cripples. 

The climate in the region of the West 
Wall is characterized during autumn and 
winter by long periods of light rain and 
snow. Although less rain falls then than 
during summer, there are more days of 
precipitation likely to curtail air activity 
and maintain saturation of the fine tex- 
tured soils found in the region. Even in 
winter temperatures are usually above 
freezing except during seven to eight days 
a month when snow covers the ground. 24 

These were the climatic conditions 
which Allied planners might expect. In 
reality, the fall and winter of 1944 were to 
produce weather of near record severity. 
Rainfall was to be far above average, and 
snow and freezing temperatures were to 
come early and stay for long periods. It 
wasn't very good weather for fighting a 
motorized, mechanized war or, as cold, 
rain-soaked infantrymen would attest, for 
fighting a foxhole war. 

24 More on climate may be found in: The 
Climate of the Rhine Valley, Germany, XIX 
Corps AAR Oct 44; The Climate of Central and 
Western Germany, Annex i to FUSA G-2 Per 
Rpt 92, 10 Sep, FUSA G-2 file, Sep 44. 



36 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



A Pause at the Border 

On 1 1 September the seemingly vagrant 
path which the Allied armies had followed 
through North Africa, Sicily, Italy, 
France, and Belgium at last was heading 
for its destination. The First Army was 
preparing to invade Germany. 

The First Army's greatest concentration 
lay well to the north of the center of the 
army zone near Liege. Here General Col- 
lins had kept the three divisions of his 
VII Corps close to his left boundary in a 
relatively compact formation covering 
about fifteen miles. The ist Division was 
astride the main Liege-Aachen highway 
less than ten miles from Aachen. (Map 



HI) The 3d Armored Division had cap- 
tured the city of Eupen in the borderland 
ceded to Belgium after World War I. 
The gth Division was moving into as- 
sembly areas near Verviers, a textile and 
communications center about halfway 
between Liege and the German frontier. 
The 4th Cavalry Group, perhaps spurred 
by the nature of its objective, had occu- 
pied the beer-producing town of Malmedy. 
The cavalry was responsible for screening 
a twenty-five mile gap extending south- 
ward to the boundary with the V Corps. 

General Gerow had tried to keep the 
main force of his V Corps near his 
northern boundary in order to be as close 
as possible to the main concentration of 
the VII Corps. The 4th Division was in 
assembly areas near St. Vith, about six 
miles from the German border. (Map 
The 28th Division was assembling in 



the northern tip of Luxembourg, its east- 
ernmost disposition not over four miles 
from Germany. To cover a front of 
approximately thirty miles from the 
infantry divisions south to the boundary 
with the Third Army, the 5th Armored 



Division was assembling on three sides of 
the city of Luxembourg. 

On the First Army's north wing, 
General Corlett's XIX Corps still had 
some twenty to thirty miles to go before 
reaching the German border. The XIX 
Corps still had to cross the Meuse River 
and clear the Dutch Panhandle around 
Maastricht. The 2d Armored Division 
was on the left, near the boundary with 
the 21 Army Group; the 30th Division 
and the 1 1 qth Cavalry Gro up were on 



the right. (See Map 1, below.) 

Though the general location of the 
First Army was the result of the high-level 
decisions of 23 August, the specific orien- 
tation of the three corps had emerged 
from a meeting between General Eisen- 
hower and his top commanders on 2 
September at Chartres. Indeed, it was 
the tentative directive emerging from this 
meeting, plus amplifications on 4 and 14 
September, that was to govern First Army 
operations through the remainder of the 
month and into October. 25 

Meeting at Chartres with Bradley, 
Hodges, and Patton, Eisenhower had di- 
rected that two corps of the First Army 
drive northeast alongside the British to 
help secure the Ruhr industrial area. 
The remaining corps was to be prepared 
to accept a handicap while accumulating 
enough gasoline and other supplies to 
permit a drive eastward in conjunction 
with the Third Army. It was at this 
meeting that General Eisenhower granted 
approval for the Third Army to resume its 
attack. 



25 Memo for Record, 2 Sep 44, Notes on 
Meeting of Supreme Commander and Com- 
manders; FWD 13765, 4 Sep 44, and FWD 
14764, 14 Sep 44, Eisenhower to Comdrs, all in 
1 2th A Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, I. 



THE FIRST U.S. ARMY 



37 



As finally determined by General Brad- 
ley, the First Army was to get over the 
Rhine at Koblenz, Bonn, and Cologne, 
while the Third Army was to cross at 
Mainz and Mannheim. 26 Within the 
First Army, the V Corps was to drive 
toward Koblenz, the VII Corps toward 
Bonn, and the XIX Corps toward Cologne. 

General Hodges, in turn, had ordered 
what might appear at first glance to have 
been a contradiction of General Eisen- 
hower's assignment of priority to the two 
corps alongside the British. Instead of 
the V Corps on the right wing, the corps 
which he had halted for want of gasoline 
was the XIX Corps on the left wing, 
closest to the British. In reality, General 
Hodges had made the alteration in order 
to utilize the modicum of gasoline avail- 
able at the moment to close a yawning gap 
that had developed between the First and 
Third Armies and to get at least two corps 
across the Meuse River, the only logical 
defensive line to be crossed in this sector 
short of the West Wall. He apparently 
had chosen the V and VII Corps because 
they had been closest to the Meuse. 27 
General Hodges' reaction later in the 
month after the V Corps had entered the 
West Wall would demonstrate his basic 
obedience to the assignment of priority. 28 

Having crossed the Meuse, General 
Hodges on 1 1 September faced the second 
big step in the drive to the Rhine. Before 
him lay the prospect of two of his corps 
assaulting the vaunted West Wall. Gaso- 
line suddenly dropped from the highest 
position of priority in the supply picture 



26 1 2 th A Gp Ltrs of Instrs 8, io Sep 44, 12 th 
A Gp Rpt of Opns, V, 91-92. 

27 This is the author's analysis of material 
found in FUSA AAR, Sep 44. See also Interv 
with Gen Bradley, 7 Jun 56. 

28 See below, Ch. III. 



in favor of ammunition. Facing a heavily 
fortified line, General Hodges could not 
ignore the possibility that a period of 
intense fighting might ensue. Though 
the First Army had received a thousand 
tons of ammunition on 1 1 September, 
time would be required to move it forward 
from the railhead. Not until 15 Septem- 
ber, the logistics experts estimated, would 
sufficient stocks of ammunition be avail- 
able for five days of intensive fighting. 29 

Loath to upset the impetus of his 
victorious troops, General Hodges never- 
theless deemed it imperative to order a 
pause of at least two days. He attempted 
to bridge the period by directing extensive 
reconnaissance and development of enemy 
strength and dispositions. Both the V 
and VII Corps then were to launch 
co-ordinated attacks not earlier than the 
morning of 14 September. 

The VII Corps commander, General 
Collins, chafed under even this much 
delay. In the afternoon of 1 1 September, 
General Collins asked permission to make 
a reconnaissance in force the next day to 
advance as far as possible through the 
border defenses. If progress proved 
"easy," he wanted to make a limited 
penetration beyond the West Wall before 
pausing for supplies. 

General Hodges was torn by a dilemma 
of time versus power. A hastily mounted 
attack might quickly bog down, yet every 
day of delay would aid the enemy's efforts 
to man the West Wall. Making his de- 
cision on the side of speed, General 
Hodges approved Collins' request. He 
also authorized General Gerow to make a 
similar reconnaissance in force with the V 
Corps. Should the maneuvers encounter 
solid opposition and fail to achieve quick 



29 Sylvan Diary, entry of 10 Sep 44. 



38 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



penetrations, General Hodges directed, 
the corps were to hold in place to await 
supplies before launching major attacks. 30 
General Hodges obviously based these 
eleventh-hour authorizations on a hope 
that resistance still would be disorganized 
and spotty. The assault formation alone 
would indicate that pursuit still was the 
order of the day. Here were two corps, 
widely separated and without support on 
either flank. To the south, the closest 
concentration of the Third Army was 
more than eighty miles away from the 
main concentration of the V Corps. To 
the northeast, the First Army's XIX Corps 
had gained sufficient gasoline on 1 1 Sep- 
tember to resume the northeastward drive, 
but it would be several days before the 
XIX Corps would be in a position to 
protect the exposed left flank of the VII 
Corps. 

The first thrust toward the West Wall 
and the Rhine thus devolved upon the V 
and VII Corps, both widely extended, 
virtually devoid of hope for early reinforce- 
ment, and dangerously short of supplies. 
Still there was reason to believe that the 
reconnaissance in force might succeed. 

30 See Ltr, Hodges to Gerow, 11 Sep 44, V 
Corps G-3 file, 1 1 Sep 44. 



Though resistance against both corps had 
been stiffening perceptibly as the troops 
neared the border, it was not strong 
enough to disperse the heady optimism of 
the period. Hardly anyone believed that 
the West Wall would be surrendered 
without a fight, yet the troops available to 
defend it probably would be too few and 
too disorganized to make much of a stand. 
The V Corps estimated that on its im- 
mediate front the enemy had only 6,000 
troops. Not a single German unit of 
divisional size, the V Corps G-2 noted, 
had been encountered for at least a week. 
The VII Corps expected to encounter 
only about 7,700 Germans. 31 

The over-all First Army view was that 
the Germans would defend the West Wall 
"for reasons of prestige," but that they 
hardly could hope to hold for long. Even 
the increased resistance becoming manifest 
at the moment in Lorraine and the Neth- 
erlands, the First Army took to be a good 
omen. Since the enemy had concentrated 
elsewhere, he had nothing left for defend- 
ing either the Eifel region or the Aachen 



31 V Corps G-2 Estimate 11, 10 Sep 44; Order 
of Battle, IncI 2 to VII Corps G-2 Per Rpt 97. 

32 FUSA G-2 Estimate 26, 1 1 Sep 44. 



CHAPTER III 

V Corps Hits the West Wall 



It was almost dark on 1 1 September 
when General Gerow, the V Corps com- 
mander, received General Hodges' author- 
ization for a reconnaissance in force to 
penetrate the West Wall. 1 Thus General 
Gerow hardly could have expected to 
begin by the next morning a reconnais- 
sance on the scale contemplated by 
General Collins and the neighboring VII 
Corps. He directed, in effect, little more 
than movement to assembly areas closer 
to the German border in preparation for 
the co-ordinated attack to be launched on 
14 September. 

Interpreting the order to mean sending 
only reinforced patrols against the West 
Wall for the moment, the infantry divi- 
sion commanders obviously anticipated no 
immediate breakthrough of the fortified 
line. The corps armor, in turn, was 
merely to reconnoiter the West Wall with 
patrols and provide a demonstration by 
fire "to conceal our real intention to make 
the main effort in the north half of [the] 
Corps zone." 2 

The plan which General Gerow had in 
mind for the co-ordinated attack on 14 
September had been worked out several 
days earlier before General Hodges had 
indicated the necessity of a pause at the 
border. 3 It reflected in some measure a 

1 Ltr, Hodges to Gerow, 1 1 Sep 44, FUSA 
G-3 file, 9-23 Sep 44. 

2 Dir, Gerow to CO, 5th Armd Div, 1 1 Sep, 
FUSA G-3 file, 9-23 Sep 44. 

3 V Corps FO 26, 9 Sep 44, V Corps G-3 
file, 9 Sep 44. 



basic incongruity in corps objective and 
mission as transmitted down the chain of 
command from the meeting of top Ameri- 
can commanders at Chartres. In driving 
toward Koblenz, the V Corps was to at- 
tack "in conjunction with Third Army." 4 
Yet if the corps tried to stick close to the 
Third Army, this would mean attacking 
up the valley of the Moselle River, a 
narrow compartmentalized route of ad- 
vance far removed from the rest of the 
First Army upon which the V Corps 
depended for supply and for assistance in 
event of trouble. 

Having attempted to resolve the conflict 
by stationing the infantry divisions near 
the northern corps boundary, General 
Gerow then had to depend upon his 
armored division to cover the great gap 
between the infantry and the Third Army. 
Thus he in effect had demoted his armor 
to the role of a cavalry group, which 
meant that the weight of the armor would 
be lost to him in at least the initial stages 
of his attack. Meeting with his three 
division commanders on 10 September, 
General Gerow revealed his desire to get 
the armor into the fight if possible. He 
directed the 5th Armored Division to 
demonstrate to its front and be prepared 
to assault the West Wall on order, all the 
while holding out one combat command 



4 Memo for Record, 2 Sep 44, Notes on 
Meeting of Supreme Commander with Sub- 
ordinate Commanders. 



40 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



prepared on short notice to exploit any 
breakthrough achieved by the infantry." 

Perhaps the incongruity between corps 
objective and mission was basically insol- 
uble. The difficulty, for example, was 
clearly reflected on 1 1 September at First 
Army headquarters where General Gerow 
and the army commander, General 
Hodges, engaged in "an occasionally 
rather tempestuous discussion" over the V 
Corps plan. Aware of "the importance 
that General Bradley [ 1 2th Army Group 
commander] placed on the strength of the 
right flank," Hodges insisted that an in- 
fantry regimental combat team be at- 
tached to the armor on the right. Gen- 
eral Gerow gave the role to the 28th 
Division's 112th Infantry. Possibly also 
as a result of General Hodges' views, 
Gerow on 1 1 September enlarged the 
armored division's assignment by ordering 
that if the armor found the West Wall in 
its zone lightly held, it was to attack to 
seize objectives in the south that would 
protect and promote the main advance in 
the north while at the same time lessening 
the gap between the First and Third 
Armies. 6 

No one had any illusions at this stage 
about the terrain over which the V Corps 
was to attack. Already familiar were the 
sharp ridges, deeply incised ravines, 
numerous streams, dense forests, and 
restricted road net of the Ardennes. At- 
tacking through the Eifel meant more of 
the same but with the added obstacle of 
the West Wall. 

All along the V Corps front the West 
Wall was a single belt of fortifications in 



greatest density along a possible avenue of 
approach southwest of the Schnee Eifel, 
the high wooded ridge just across the Our 
River and the German border. {See Map 



5 V Corps Memo for Record, 10 Sep 44, V 
Corps G-3 file, 1 1 Sep 44. 

6 Sylvan Diary, entry of 1 1 Sep 44 ; Memo, 
Gerow to CGs, 4th and 28th Divs, 1 1 Sep 44, 
FUSA G-3 file, 9-23 Sep 44. 



//.) Along the Schnee Eifel itself the 
Germans had depended so much upon the 
rugged terrain that they had built fewer 
fortifications than at any point from 
Aachen south and southeast to the Rhine. 

The objectives assigned the divisions of 
the V Corps were based upon three dis- 
tinct elevations lying astride the route of 
advance. The first was the Schnee Eifel, 
extending unbroken for about fifteen 
miles from Ormont to the vicinity of the 
village of Brandscheid where it develops 
into a high, relatively open plateau. The 
4th Division was to seize the crest of the 
Schnee Eifel to facilitate advance of the 
28th Division across the plateau. Farther 
south the plateau is blocked by dense 
woods and sharp, clifflike slopes to a point 
between Vianden and Echternach. Here 
exists a suggestion of a corridor through 
which the 5th Armored Division was to 
advance upon order to take high ground 
about the village of Mettendorf. 

The second elevation, taking the form 
of a high north-south plateau, lies beyond 
the Pruem River. At the western edge 
of the plateau lie the towns of Pruem and 
Bitburg. Though these towns have a 
population of only a few thousand, they 
are among the largest in the Eifel and are 
important communications centers. The 
infantry in the north was to take Pruem; 
the armor in the south, to secure Bitburg. 

Beyond the second elevation lies the 
little Kyll River, barring access to a third, 
high mountainlike plateau which slopes, 
grooved and broken, to the Rhine. 
Across this plateau the divisions were to 
make the final advance on Koblenz, some 
fifty miles inside the German border. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



41 



Located opposite the Schnee Eifel near 
St. Vith, the 4th Division was about four 
miles south of the boundary with the VII 
Corps but some twenty miles from the 
main concentration of the VII Corps. 
To cover the gap, the io2d Cavalry Group 
was to screen and maintain contact with 
cavalry of the VII Corps and was to be 
prepared to advance eastward along the 
upper reaches of the Kyll through what is 
known as the Loshcim Gap. 

The location of the 28th Division 
(minus one regimental combat team) near 
the right flank of the 4th Division served 
to effect a concentration of five regiments 
on a frontage of approximately fourteen 
miles. South of this limited concentra- 
tion, the 5th Armored Division and the 
28th Division's 112th Infantry were to 
cover the rest of the corps front of about 
thirty miles. 

As General Gcrow was aware, he had 
achieved, for all his efforts, no genuine 
concentration for the attack. Yet the 
very fact that the corps had been assigned 
a rugged route of advance like the Eifel 
meant that American commanders still 
were thinking in terms of pursuit warfare. 
If pursuit remained the order of the day, 
the spread formation was acceptable, even 
in front of a fortified line like the West 
Wall. 

Available intelligence gave no reason 
for concern. The V Corps G-2, Col. 
Thomas J. Ford, predicted that the corps 
would meet only battered remnants of the 
three divisions which had fled before the 
corps across Belgium and Luxembourg. 
These were the 5th Parachute, Panzer 
Lehr, and ad Panzer Divisions. It was 
possible, Colonel Ford added, that the 
corps might meet parts of the ad SS 
Panzer Division, known to have been 
operating along the corps north boundary. 




General Gerow 
"There seems no doubt," Colonel Ford 
concluded, "that the enemy will defend 
[the Siegfried Line] with all of the forces 
that he can gather," But, he intimated, 
what he could gather was open to ques- 
tion. 7 

The Race for the West Wall 

The true German situation in the Eifel 
was fully as dismal as the V Corps G-2 
pictured it. The corps which controlled 
the sector roughly coterminous to that of 
the V Corps was the / SS Panzer Corps 
under General der Waffen-SS Georg 
Keppler. Of four divisions nominally 
under General Kepplers command, two 
had been so depleted that Keppler had 
merged them with another, the sd SS 
Panzer Division. This division was to 

'V Corps G-a Estimate 11, 10 Sep 44. 



42 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



defend the Schnee Eifel. The remaining 
division, the 2d Panzer, was to guard the 
West Wall south of the Schnee Eifel. 

Between them the 2d Panzer and 2d SS 
Panzer Divisions could muster no more 
than 3 nominal panzer grenadier regi- 
ments, none with greater strength than a 
reinforced battalion; 2 engineer battal- 
ions; 2 signal battalions; 17 assault guns; 
26 105-mm. and 3 150-mm. howitzers; 
plus no more than 6 tanks, 3 in each 
division. To this force might be added 
the nondescript garrison troops actually in 
position in the West Wall in this sector, 
but these were so few that they could have 
manned no more than every fifth position. 8 

General Keppler's / SS Panzer Corps 
formed the southern (left) wing of the 
Seventh Army, commanded by General 
der Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger. 
The Seventh Army in turn formed the left 
wing of Field Marshal Model's Army 
Group B. The corps, army, and army 
group boundaries ran through the south- 
ern part of the V Corps zone along a line 
Diekirch-Bitburg. Below this line was 
the LXXX Corps, which was the northern 
(right) wing of the First Army (General 
der Panzertruppen Otto von Knobels- 
dorff) in Lorraine, which was in turn the 
right wing of Army Group G. 

Because the German unit boundaries 
did not correspond to the one between the 
First and Third U.S. Armies, the V Corps 
attack was to strike the inner wings of 
both German army groups. Thus, north- 
ernmost contingents of the LXXX Corps 
also would be involved. Commanded by 

8 MS # C-048 (Kraemer). Generalmajor der 
Waffen-SS Fritz Kraemer was chief of staff of 
the J SS Panzer Corps. Greater detail and 
fuller documentation on the German side may be 
found in Lucian Heichler, The Germans Facing 
V Corps, MS prepared to complement this 
study, OCMH. 



General der Infanterie Dr. Franz Beyer, 
the LXXX Corps had only one unit in 
this- sector bearing a division label. This 
was the 5th Parachute Division, which, 
like some of General Keppler's units, had 
little left except a name. To a nucleus of 
the division headquarters and a company 
of the reconnaissance battalion, General 
Beyer had attached a security regiment, a 
motorized infantry regiment, and a few 
miscellaneous units of company size. The 
division had neither armor nor artillery. 

Although the LXXX Corps controlled 
a Kampfgruppe of the once-proud Panzer 
Lehr Division, the Kampjgruppe was a 
far cry from a division. It consisted only 
of a panzer grenadier battalion of 
company strength, an engineer company, 
six 105-mm. howitzers, five tanks, a 
reconnaissance platoon, and an Alarm- 
bat aillon (emergency alert battalion) of 
about 200 men recruited from stragglers 
and soldiers on furlough in Trier. Al- 
though the corps was destined on 14 
September to receive a regiment and a 
light battery of a division newly com- 
mitted in Lorraine, the addition hardly 
would make up for the over-all deficiencies 
in the command. The First Army put 
the matter succinctly in a report on 13 
September: "At the present time, LXXX 
Corps cannot hold a defense line with 
these forces . . . ." 9 



9 Order, A Gp B to Armies, 10 Sep 44, A Gp 
B KTB Anlagen, Operationsbefehle, 1.IX.-30.IX. 
44 (hereafter cited as A Gp B KTB, Operations- 
befehle); Entries of 10 and 13 Sep 44, A Gp G 
KTB 2, 1.VII.-30.IX.44 (hereafter cited as A 
Gp G KTB (Text)); MSS # B-081 (Beyer) and 
# B-214 (Col Willy Mantey, CofS First Army); 
Gen. St. d. H. sit maps, Lage Frankreich, 10-14 
Sep 44; Rpt, A Gp G to OB WEST, 13 Sep 44, 
A Gp G KTB 2, Anlagen, 1.IX.-30.IX.44 
(hereafter cited as A Gp G KTB, Anlagen). 
Quotation is from entry of 13 Sep 44, A Gp G 
KTB [Text). 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



43 



In the feeble hands of units like these 
had rested German hopes of holding the 
Allies beyond the West Wall long enough 
for the fortifications to be put into shape. 
As the Commander in Chief West had 
recognized, this was a big assignment. 
As late as 10 September Field Marshal 
von Rundstedt had warned that he 
needed another five to six weeks to restore 
the West Wall. That very day he had 
been so perturbed by a gap which had 
developed between the First and Seventh 
Armies that he had authorized General 
Beyer's LXXX Corps to leave only rear 
guards behind in Luxembourg and to fall 
back on the West Wall. This move 
obviously foreshadowed a quick end to 
any hope that Keppler's / SS Panzer 
Corps might continue to hold beyond the 
West Wall; for it had left General Kep- 
pler without even a guise of a southern 
neighbor. 10 

On ii September Army Group B 
summed up the gloomy story in a few 
words: "Continued reduction in combat 
strength and lack of ammunition have the 
direst effects on the course of defense 
action." That was understatement. On 
1 1 September, for example, the 2d SS 
Panzer Division possessed no ammunition 
for either its 75-mm. antitank guns, its 
210-mm. mortars, or its light and medium 
howitzers. That evening General Kep- 
pler told the 2d Panzer Division to fall 
back on the West Wall and the next day 
repeated the order to the 2d SS Panzer 
Division. 11 

"Entries of 10 Sep 44, OB WEST KTB, 
i. IX. -30. IX. 44 (hereafter cited as OB WEST 
KTB (Text)), and A Gp G KTB (Text). 

11 Quotation from Evng Sitrep, 11 Sep 44, A 
Gp B, la Letzte Meldung, 10.VIII-30.IX.44 (here- 
after cited as A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung) ; 
Rpt by Model (CG A Gp B) 11 Sep 44, A Gp B 
KTB, Operationsbefehle; MSS # B-730 (Bran- 
denberger) and #B-623 (Keppler). 



The fear behind these withdrawals was 
that American columns might exploit one 
of the yawning gaps in the line to spurt 
forward and gain a hold on an unde- 
fended West Wall while German units 
dangled impotently farther west. Reports 
reaching Seventh Army headquarters the 
night of 1 1 September to the effect that 
the 2d Panzer Division had found the 
Americans already in possession of a num- 
ber of West Wall bunkers for a while 
confirmed the Germans' worst apprehen- 
sions. German commanders breathed 
only slightly more easily when a new 
report the next day revealed the penetra- 
tion to be the work of reconnaissance 
patrols. 12 

On 14 September, the day the V corps 
was to attack, the / SS Panzer Corps 
officially halted its retreat and began to 
occupy the West Wall along a forty-mile 
front stretching from the northern ex- 
tremity of the Schnee Eifel to the vicinity 
of the little river village of Wallendorf, a 
few miles southeast of Vianden. General 
Keppler split the front between his two 
divisions, the 2d Panzer and the 2d SS 
Panzer. 13 Already the LXXX Corps had 
begun to occupy the bunkers farther south. 

The race for the West x Wall was over. 
Technically, the Germans had won it; but 
so soon were the Americans upon them 
that the end results looked much like a 
dead heat. 

Into Germany 

As the divisions of the V Corps began 
moving toward the German border early 
on 12 September, it was obvious that 



12 MS # B-730 (Brandenberger) . 

13 Sitrep, 13 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Anlage, 
Tagesmeldungen, 6. VI -i 5.X.44 (hereafter cited 
as A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen ) . 



44 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



General Gerow's plan of piercing the West 
Wall on a broad front with limited means 
could work as a genuine corps maneuver 
only if attended by considerable success. 
Because the various divisional attacks 
were to occur at relatively isolated points, 
only after attainment of unequivocal 
breakthrough could the divisions unite in 
concerted, mutually supporting maneuver. 
The V Corps attack thus began as three 
separate operations: the 4th Division on 
the Schnee Eifel, the 28th Division on the 
plateau southwest of the Schnee Eifel, 
and the 5 th Armored Division far to the 
south. 

The first of the three divisions to come 
full against the West Wall was the 28th 
in the center, both because the fortifica- 
tions in the 28th Division's sector extended 
farther to the west and because the divi- 
sion commander gave a relatively broad 
interpretation to the authorization to make 
a reconnaissance in force. 14 

Even before receiving the authorization, 
the division commander, Brig. Gen. Nor- 
man D. Cota, 15 had issued a field order 
directing, in essence, a minor reconnais- 
sance in force. His two regiments (the 

14 The 28th Division had received its baptism 
of fire with the XIX Corps in the closing days of 
the Normandy hedgerow battles and had joined 
the V Corps on 28 August. By staging a libera- 
tion parade up the Champs Elysees on the way 
to the front, the division got its picture on a U.S. 
postage stamp. A nickname, The Bloody Bucket, 
probably was derived from a red keystone 
shoulder patch denoting the division's Pennsyl- 
vania National Guard origin. The division's 
story is based upon official records and combat 
interviews. The interview file contains a particu- 
larly valuable and detailed narrative on the 110th 
Infantry action, entitled Into Germany, by Capt. 
John S. Howe. 

15 Promoted to major general, 26 September 
1944. General Cota assumed command on 14 
August, after relief of one commander and the 
battle death one day later of his successor. 



third was attached to the 5th Armored 
Division) were to "attack" during daylight 
by sending strong patrols to feel the way 
and by closing up before dark to hold 
gains made by the patrols. In deference 
to the twelve- to fifteen-mile width of the 
division zone and to the unknown caliber 
of the enemy, neither regiment was to 
commit to action more than one rein- 
forced battalion. 16 

The first objective was the crest of the 
high plateau a few miles beyond the Ger- 
man border in the vicinity of the West 
Wall village of Uettfeld. The route of 
approach was the closest thing to a 
natural corridor leading into Germany in 
this sector, even though it consisted of 
steep, broken terrain served by a limited 
road net. Though the pillboxes here were 
in but one band, they were dense and 
fronted by an almost continuous line of 
dragon's teeth antitank obstacles. 

On the right wing, the 109th Infantry 
(Col. William L. Blanton) moved toward 
the village of Roscheid, which rested in 
a bend in the West Wall. Through Ros- 
cheid the regiment was to converge with 
the 1 1 oth Infantry ( Col. Theodore A. 
Seely) on high ground around Uettfeld. 
By nightfall of 12 September a battalion 
had crossed a bridge over the Our River 
secured earlier by a patrol and had ad- 
vanced unopposed through outpost pill- 
boxes to the village of Sevenig, separated 
from Roscheid by the muddy course of the 
little Irsen creek. 

To the north, the 1 1 oth Infantry also 
sent a battalion across the border to take 
up positions for the night west of Gross- 
kampenberg, a village about 600 yards 
short of the dragon's teeth on a road 

16 28th Div FO 17; 11 Sep 44, 28th Div G-3 
file 1 1 Sep 44. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



45 



leading through Kesfeld to Uettfeld. The 
objective of Uettfeld lay about two miles 
beyond the dragon's teeth. 

It was the report of the 2d Panzer 
Division's encounter with 28th Division 
reconnaissance patrols which disturbed the 
febrile Seventh Army headquarters into 
belief that the Americans had won the 
race for the West Wall. Even the clarifi- 
cation of the matter later on 1 2 September 
could have afforded little relief to the 
panzer division commander, General der 
Panzertruppen Heinrich Freiherr von 
Luettwitz. Although the line remained 
inviolate, the Americans had camped on 
the threshhold. Luettwitz' hope of stop- 
ping a thrust the next day, 13 September, 
rested mainly with three tanks and eight 
assault guns. 17 

General von Luettwitz might have 
breathed more easily had he known the 
true situation in the American camp. 
Moving directly from the scramble of 
pursuit warfare, the 28th Division was 
not ready for an attack on a fortified line. 
Neither of the two regiments had received 
special equipment needed in pillbox 
assault, such as flame throwers and 
explosive charges. Attached tank and 
self-propelled tank destroyer units still 
were repairing their pursuit-damaged ve- 
hicles and had yet to come forward. 
The infantry would face the West Wall 
with direct fire support only from or- 
ganic 57-mm. antitank guns and a few 
platoons of towed tank destroyers, both 
highly vulnerable to return fire. Few 
units of the division had more than a basic 
load of ammunition, enough perhaps for a 
meeting engagement but not for sus- 
tained fighting. So concerned about the 

17 MSS # B-730 (Brandenberger) and B-623 
(Keppler) . 



ammunition shortage was the division com- 
mander, General Cota, that he forbade 
unobserved artillery fires except previ- 
ously registered concentrations and others 
specifically approved by his headquarters. 
In addition, both regiments of the 28th 
Division would be restricted for still 
another day to committing but one bat- 
talion to action. 

For all these problems, a battalion each 
of the 1 09th and 1 1 oth Infantry Regi- 
ments attacked the West Wall early on 13 
September. Trying to cross the Irsen 
creek to gain a foothold among the 
pillboxes on high ground west of Roscheid, 
a battalion of the 109th Infantry failed 
even to reach the creek. Rifle and auto- 
matic weapons fire from the pillboxes 
brought the attackers up sharply more 
than 700 yards away from the West Wall. 
A battalion of the 1 1 oth Infantry met a 
similar fate halfway between Grosskamp- 
enberg and the line of dragon's teeth. 
Pinned to the ground by small arms fire 
from the pillboxes, the men were ready 
prey for German mortar and artillery fire. 
Though both attacking battalions tried to 
use towed antitank guns for direct fire 
support, enemy gunners endowed with 
superior observation made sudden death of 
the efforts. Indirect artillery fire did little 
damage to the pillboxes other than to "dust 
off the camouflage." 18 

When the next day, 14 September, 
brought removal of the restriction on com- 
mitting more than one battalion, both 
regiments attacked frontally with one 
battalion while sending another around to 
a flank. Along with a company of tanks, 
the 109th Infantry was plagued all day by 
antitank fire and mines and by a natural 
tank trap in the muddy Irsen creek bot- 

18 Howe, Into Germany. 



46 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



tomland. At heavy cost the regiment 
finally seized a strip of forward pillboxes 
more than a mile wide but fell short of 
taking Roscheid. 

Two miles to the north, the 1 1 oth In- 
fantry renewed the attack toward Kesfeld 
while sending a battalion around to the 
north through the village of Heckhuscheid 
to move southeast on Hill 553, a West 
Wall strongpoint along the Heckhuscheid- 
Uettfeld highway. Once again the regi- 
ment found that without direct fire 
support the infantry could make no head- 
way against the pillboxes. The battalion 
southeast of Heckhuscheid found the way 
barred by dragon's teeth and a roadblock 
at the base of Hill 553 and could get no 
farther. Though the battalion near Kes- 
feld had tried during the night to bring 
up explosives to blast a path through the 
dragon's teeth for tanks, the explosives 
had blown up unexplainably and killed 
the men who were carrying them. Arriv- 
ing in midmorning, the tanks could pro- 
vide little assistance because they could 
not get past the dragon's teeth and 
because poor visibility restricted fire 
against distant targets. Advance might 
have been stymied indefinitely had not 2d 
Lt. Joseph H. Dew maneuvered his tank 
to within a few feet of the dragon's teeth 
and methodically blasted a path with his 
75-mm. gun. 19 Accompanied by the 
tanks, the infantry managed to seize a tiny 
foothold within the forward band of pill- 
boxes, but at severe cost in casualties. 

From prisoners, both regiments learned 
something of the desperation with which 
the Germans had tried to man the West 
Wall. Many pillboxes, prisoners revealed, 
still were unmanned, and others contained 

19 Lieutenant Dew was awarded the Distin- 
guished Service Cross. 



only two or three men armed with rifles 
and an occasional machine gun or panzer- 
faust. Gathered from almost every con- 
ceivable source, many of the men had 
arrived in the line only the night before. 
Complaining bitterly about having to 
fight, a forty-year-old cook said he was 
captured little more than two hours after 
reaching the front. 

These revelations must have galled 
those American troops who had fought so 
hard to effect even these two small punc- 
tures in the German line. Maj. James C. 
Ford, the 11 oth Infantry S-3, spoke for 
them when he said: "It doesn't much 
matter what training a man may have 
when he is placed inside such protection 
as was afforded by the pillboxes. Even if 
he merely stuck his weapons through the 
aperture and fired occasionally, it kept our 
men from moving ahead freely." 20 

Though the 28th Division's gains were 
meager, they looked different when viewed 
against the backdrop of the situation along 
the entire corps front. Seeing the first 
punctures of the line as the hardest, the V 
Corps commander, General Gerow, or- 
dered the 5th Armored Division to send an 
officer that night to advise the 28th Di- 
vision on use of armor in event of a break- 
through the next day. The 5th Armored 
Division's Combat Command B, located 
northwest of Diekirch, was ready to move 
through if the infantry forged a gap. 

When the next day came, General 
Gerow saw his hopes quickly dashed. 
Even before the 109th Infantry could get 
an attack going on 15 September, a small 
counterattack forced two platoons to re- 
linquish some ground. For the next two 
days the 109th Infantry was to fight in 



20 Howe, Into Germany. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



47 



vain to get past Roscheid and secure a 
hill that provided damaging observation 
off the regiment's right flank. In the 
process, the enemy's 2d Panzer Division 
gradually chewed the regiment to pieces. 
Battered by German shelling, the Ameri- 
can riflemen could not be trusted to hold 
the positions already gained. In at least 
two instances they fell back in panic be- 
fore limited objective counterattacks. So 
poor was the showing that General Cota 
subsequently relieved the regimental com- 
mander. 

Through most of 15 September the 
situation in the 1 1 oth Infantry's sector 
appeared equally discouraging. The 1st 
Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Floid 
A. Davison, was to try again to take Hill 
553; but the late arrival of tanks and of 
engineers equipped with explosives to blow 
the troublesome roadblock precluded early 
success. Not until 1700 did the en- 
gineers arrive. The plan at this point was 
for the engineers to advance to the road- 
block under cover of fire from the tanks 
and a platoon of towed tank destroyers. 
Blowing of the roadblock was to signal 
the start of an attack by infantry and tanks. 

Ten unarmed engineers, each carrying a 
50-pound load of TNT, began to creep 
slowly, carefully toward the roadblock. 
Though the day was foggy, the engineers 
felt naked. As they inched forward, ten- 
sion mounted, passing almost electrically 
to the waiting infantrymen and tankers. 

Reaching the objective at last, the en- 
gineers found that the roadblock consisted 
of six steel I-beams emplaced in concrete 
caissons on either side of the road. Large 
portable iron tetrahedrons reinforced the 
whole. Working swiftly, they placed 
their charges. 

Shortly after 1830, an hour and a half 



after start of the tedious journey, the 
engineers completed their work. Activat- 
ing the eharges, they jumped to their feet. 
In the words of their lieutenant, they 
"went like hell to the rear." The road- 
block disintegrated with a roar. 

Acting on cue, the tanks fired point- 
blank at the pillboxes. The infantry went 
forward on the run. In about forty-five 
minutes the battalion had stormed the 
objective, Hill 553. It yielded seventeen 
pillboxes and fifty-eight prisoners. After 
almost three days of mounting casualties 
and frustrations, the 1 1 oth Infantry in a 
quick, co-ordinated assault at last had 
gained a significant objective within the 
West Wall. 

The regimental commander, Colonel 
Seely, planned for his two committed bat- 
talions to converge the next day upon 
the regimental objective of Kemper Steim- 
erich Hill (Hill 560), key to the com- 
manding ground around Uettfeld. In 
order to better the jump-off position and 
to narrow a gap between the two bat- 
talions, the fatigued battalion west of 
Kesfeld sent a company in late afternoon 
to clear a nest of pillboxes in the direction 
of Hill 553. As darkness came, Company 
F under Capt. Robert H. Schultz com- 
pleted the mission. Sending back more 
than fifty prisoners, the men began to 
settle down for the night in and about 
the pillboxes they had captured. 

The first sign of an impending counter- 
attack came about half an hour after 
midnight. The men could hear tracked 
vehicles moving through the darkness 
toward Company F's positions. On 
guard at the time at a pillbox occupied by 
the company's rear command group, Pvt. 
Roy O. Fleming said later, "Suddenly 
everything became quiet. I could hear 



48 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the clank of these vehicles .... I saw 
the flame thrower start and heard the 
sounds of a helluva scrap up around 
Captain Schultz's position . . ." 21 

A few minutes after the firing began, 
another company intercepted a frantic 
radio message: "KING SUGAR to any- 
body. KING SUGAR to anybody. 
Help. We are having a counterattack — 
tanks, infantry, flame throwers." 

What could anybody do to help? By 
the time the messages could be exchanged 
and artillery brought to bear, the action 
had subsided. Company F's radio ap- 
parently was defective, capable of sending 
but not of receiving. The situation thus 
was so obscure that Colonel Seely dared 
not risk immediate commitment of his 
reserve. 

What happened remained a mystery dif- 
ficult to piece together from the fragments 
of information provided by the few men 
who escaped. The Germans apparently 
had attacked with about seventy to eighty 
men reinforced by two flame -throwing ve- 
hicles. A prisoner captured some days 
later said the vehicles were improvised 
flame throwers constructed from Schuetz- 
enpanzerwagen ( armored half-tracks ) . As 
late as two days after the event, Company 
F could muster no more than forty-four 
men, including cooks and supply per- 
sonnel. 

The news of Company F's disaster 
dealt a heavy blow to the optimism en- 
gendered by the success of the preceding 
afternoon. Only a few hours before the 
Germans hit Company F, General Cota 
had expressed "high hopes" about the 
division's prospects. 22 He could have 
been thinking only of the 1 1 oth Infantry, 

21 Ibid. 

22 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 15 Sep 44. 



which now would have to use its reserve 
battalion to retake the pillboxes Company 
F had lost. 

Delayed again by the late arrival of 
supporting tanks and unassisted by the 
rest of the regiment, Colonel Davison's 1st 
Battalion nevertheless attacked again in 
midmorning of 16 September. Assisted 
by effective counterbattery artillery fires, 
the battalion quickly seized Losenseifen 
Hill (Hill 568), adjacent to Hill 553 and 
one of the highest points in the 28th 
Division's sector. Leaving a company to 
hold the hill, the 1st Battalion continued 
to attack and stopped for the night only 
after capturing Spielmannsholz Hill (Hill 
559), less than a thousand yards short of 
the regimental objective overlooking Uett- 
feld. 

In a day of rapid, determined advance, 
Colonel Davison's men had progressed a 
mile and a half past the dragon's teeth and 
had captured some of the most command- 
ing ground for miles around. Beyond 
them lay only scattered West Wall fortifi- 
cations. Though the penetration was 
narrow and pencillike, the 28th Division 
had for all practical purposes broken 
through the West Wall. 

It was ironic that even as Colonel Davi- 
son's men were achieving this feat, General 
Gerow was visiting the division command 
post with orders to call off the offensive. 
Having incurred almost 1,500 casualties, 
the two regiments of the 28th Division 
were in no condition to expand or exploit 
the 1 1 oth Infantry's narrow penetration. 23 
Neither was the situation elsewhere in the 
V Corps encouraging enough to justify 

23 Though the casualty figures are for the 
entire month of September, the only heavy fight- 
ing occurred during these five days. See 28th 
Div AAR, Sep 44. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



49 



bringing troops from some other part of 
the front. 

During the next few days, the 109th 
and 1 1 oth Infantry Regiments jockeyed 
for position, while the Germans registered 
their protest with small counterattacks 
and continued shelling. 24 The attempt to 
get across the high plateau into the rugged 
Eifel was over. 

Battle of the Schnee Eifel 

A few miles to the north, the 4th Divi- 
sion in the meantime had been more 
conservative in interpreting the authority 
to reconnoiter in force but had experi- 
enced more encouraging initial success. 
The action took place on the imposing 
ridge line east of St. Vith, the Schnee Eifel. 

Preceded by combat patrols, the 4th 
Division had resumed eastward march on 
12 September. By nightfall the next day 
two regiments had crossed the border and 
moved into assembly areas in the shadow 
of the Schnee Eifel. On the north wing, 
the 1 2th Infantry (Col. James S. Luckett) 
assembled at the village of Radscheid; the 
2 2d Infantry (Col. Charles T. Lanham) 
nearby at Bleialf. Impressed by a lack of 
opposition, the division commander, Maj. 
Gen. Raymond O. Barton, ordered both 
regiments to push reconnaissance patrols 
forward; but he reserved any real attempt 
to move into the West Wall for the next 
day, 14 September, the day General 



24 During one counterattack, a squad leader in 
Company K, iogth Infantry, T. Sgt. Francis J. 
Clark, assumed command of two leaderless 
platoons. Moving among the men without re- 
gard for enemy fire, he encouraged them to 
hold. Later, though wounded, he refused evacu- 
ation. These were but two of a series of heroic 
actions over the period 12-17 September for 
which Sergeant Clark received the Medal of 
Honor. 



Gerow had designated for the V Corps 
attack. 25 

Patrols probing the woods line of the 
Pruem State Forest, which crowns the 
Schnee Eifel, learned little except that 
some Germans — number and capabilities 
undetermined — were in the pillboxes. 
This information did nothing to alter Gen- 
eral Barton's anticipation that only a crust 
of resistance stood between the 4th Divi- 
sion and a breakthrough operation. 26 

General Barton ordered the 12th and 
2 2d Infantry Regiments to attack abreast 
at 1000 on 14 September to seize an 
ambitious objective, commanding ground 
on the crest of the central plateau beyond 
the Pruem River, more than 10 miles 
away. 27 The 8th Infantry (Col. James S. 
Rodwell ) was to remain in division reserve. 
Commanders of the two forward regiments 
designated initial objectives astride a lat- 
eral highway that follows the crest of the 
Schnee Eifel. These regiments also were 
to protect the division's exposed flanks, for 
to the southwest, closest units of the 28th 
Division were more than four miles away, 
and to the northwest, the closest friendly 
troops, except for a thin veil of cavalry, 
were twenty-five miles away. 

The attack on 14 September was, at the 
start, more a reconnaissance in force than 
anything the division had attempted dur- 



25 The 4th Division story is based on combat 
interviews and official records of the division and 
attached units. Veteran of the D-Day assault on 
Utah Beach, the 4th Division also participated 
in the capture of Cherbourg and the battles to 
break out of the Norman hedgerows. The divi- 
sion joined the V Corps for the pursuit and 
shared in the liberation of Paris. The division's 
nickname, Ivy, comes from the Roman numerals, 
IV. 

26 See Ltr, Barton to OCMH, 5 Oct 53, 
OCMH. 

27 4th Div FO 37, 13 Sep 44, 4th Div G-3 
file, 13 Sep 44. 



50 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



ing the two preceding days. Although the 
regiments had intended to attack together, 
the 2 2d Infantry was delayed until noon 
while awaiting arrival of an attached com- 
pany of tanks and then used, according to 
plan, but one infantry battalion. The 
1 2th Infantry intended to employ two 
battalions, but one took a wrong trail 
upon entering the forest and contributed 
little to the day's action. Thus the 4th 
Division attacked on 14 September in no 
greater strength at first than the 28th Di- 
vision had employed the day before. 

Screened by a drizzling rain, the 12th 
Infantry on the left advanced virtually 
unimpeded up the steep western slopes of 
the Schnee Eifel. The only battalion to 
make actual contact with the West Wall 
found the pillboxes undefended. Cutting 
the Schnee Eifel highway without diffi- 
culty, the battalion turned northeast along 
the highway toward the wooded high 
ground of Bogeyman Hill (Hill 697, the 
Schwarzer Mann). Only here did the 
battalion encounter a defended pillbox. 
Accompanied by tanks, the infantry moved 
along firebreaks and trails to outflank and 
carry the position. The men dug in for 
the night on Bogeyman Hill, all the way 
through the fabled West Wall. Resist- 
ance had been so light that the infantry 
had called only once for supporting artil- 
lery fire. 

A mile to the south, the leading battal- 
ion of the 2 2d Infantry had been nearing 
the woods line east of Bleialf when a round 
from an 88-mm. gun ripped into one of 
the accompanying tanks. As the crew- 
men piled from the tank, the other tanks 
maneuvered about on the open hill. 
Thinking the tanks were withdrawing, the 
riflemen began to fall back in a panic. 
The attack might have floundered on this 
discreditable note had not unit com- 



manders acted aggressively to bring the 
men under control. 28 Then, as if to atone 
for their earlier hesitancy, the men charged 
forward at a run. In about twenty min- 
utes their charge carried not only to the 
woods line but past a row of pillboxes all 
the way to the crest of the ridge. Like 
the 1 2th Infantry, the 22d Infantry had 
achieved an astonishingly quick penetra- 
tion of this thin sector of the West Wall. 

To enlarge the penetration, the regimen- 
tal commander, Colonel Lanham, quickly 
committed his other two battalions. One 
continued the drive to the east to gain the 
woods line on the eastern slope of the 
ridge while the other joined the assault 
battalion in fanning out to right and left 
to roll up the line of pillboxes. Some of 
the fortifications turned out to be unde- 
fended, and the enemy had manned the 
others predominantly with middle-aged 
men and youths who had little unit organi- 
zation and less conception of tactics. One 
or two rifle shots against embrasures often 
proved persuasion enough to disgorge the 
defenders, hands high. Only to the 
southwest at a crossroads settlement on the 
Bleialf-Pruem highway did the Germans 
fight with determination, and here close-in 
fire from self-propelled tank destroyers had 
a telling effect. By the end of the day the 
22d Infantry held a breach in the West 
Wall about two miles wide. One battal- 
ion had reached a position on the eastern 
slopes of the Schnee Eifel overlooking the 
village of Hontheim, a mile and a quarter 
past the forward pillboxes. 

On the German side, the 2d SS Panzer 
Division either had waited a day too long 
before falling back on the West Wall or 

28 For their roles in rallying the troops, the 
regimental commander, Colonel Lanham, and the 
S-2, Capt. Howard C. Blazzard, received the 
DSC. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



51 




Dragon's Teeth near Rrandscheid. The wooded section at upper left is the edge of the 
Schnee Eifel. 



had concentrated first on manning the 
fortifications along more logical routes of 
advance than the rugged Schnee Eifel. 
The division commander, SS-Brigade- 
fuehrcr und Gcneralmajor der Waffcn-SS 
Heinz Lammerding, set out immediately to 
try to contain the penetration; but the 
strength available to him still was unim- 
pressive, even though he had received a 
few new attachments upon withdrawal 
behind the border. He had about 750 
men in four organic battalions and 1,900 
in nine attached battalions, a total of 
about 2,650. To support them, he had 
14 75-mm. antitank guns, about 37 artil- 



lery pieces, 1 assault gun, and i Mark V 
Panther tank. Two other tanks were in 
the repair shop. 29 

To the American commander, General 
Barton, the successes on 14 September 
confirmed his belief that the West Wall 
would be only a minor obstruction in the 
path of the pursuit. The corps com- 
mander, General Gerow, apparently shared 
this view, for it was during the night of 14 
September that he directed an officer of 



S0 TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 22 Sep 44 
(based on weekly strength rpt of 16 Sep 44), A 
Gp B KTB, OptTationsbefehU; MS # C-048 
(Kraemer) . 



52 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the 5th Armored Division to advise the 
28th Division on the use of armor in event 
of a breakthrough. Though the greatest 
success had been in the 4th Division's 
sector, the terrain along the Schnee Eifel 
discouraged use of armor there. 

Having virtually walked through the 
West Wall, General Barton acted on 15 
September both to broaden his effort and 
speed the eastward advance. He com- 
itted his reserve, the 8th Infantry, in a 
motorized advance along the best axial 
highway in his zone to skirt the northern 
end of the Schnee Eifel along the narrow 
corridor afforded by the valley of the 
upper Kyll, the Losheim Gap. The regi- 
ment was to occupy a march objective on 
the north bank of the Kyll six miles inside 
Germany. The 12th Infantry meanwhile 
was to sweep northeastward along the 
Schnee Eifel for several miles in order to 
uncover roads leading east. The 22d In- 
fantry was to turn southwest to take 
Brandscheid, a village within the West 
Wall at the southern end of the Schnee 
Eifel. These objectives accomplished, the 
1 2th and 22d Infantry Regiments were to 
renew the eastward drive to seize march 
objectives fourteen miles away on the 
Kyll. 30 

With the 8th Infantry on 15 September 
rode General Barton's main hope for a 
breakthrough. If the 8th Infantry could 
push rapidly, the Schnee Eifel could be 
outflanked and the West Wall left far 
behind. 

Starting early from the border village of 
Schoenberg, the 8th Infantry ran into 
blown bridges and roadblocks almost from 
the beginning. A heavy mist also slowed 
the column and for the second straight 
day denied tactical air support. At the 

30 4th Div FO 38, 14 Sep 44, 4th Div G-3 
file, 14 Sep 44; Ltr, Barton to OCMH. 



border near the village of Losheim the 
column hit definite resistance. Sideslip- 
ping to the south along a secondary 
highway, the regiment encountered a rela- 
tively stout outpost position near the 
village of Roth. By late afternoon the 
leading battalion had pushed the outpost 
back to the West Wall. But the 8th 
Infantry commander, Colonel Rodwell, 
saw no hope of readying a co-ordinated 
attack against the fortifications before the 
next morning. 31 

Colonel Rodwell's anticipation of delay 
was attributable more to organization 
problems than to any real concern about 
the enemy. One of his battalions, for 
example, reported finding German recon- 
naissance parties just moving into the 
pillboxes. Yet in the pressure of events, 
this information escaped the division com- 
mander, General Barton. Not having 
realized the rapid thrust he had antici- 
pated and somewhat perturbed by the 
turn of events during the day on the 
Schnee Eifel, General Barton told Colonel 
Rodwell to abandon the maneuver. 32 

In the wet foxholes astride the Schnee 
Eifel, the infantrymen of the 4th Division's 
other two regiments had noted a distinct 
change in the situation early on 15 Sep- 
tember. German mortar and artillery fire 
markedly increased and began to have 
telling effect from tree bursts in the thick 
forest. About 300 Germans counterat- 
tacked the most forward battalion of the 
22d Infantry near Hontheim. A battal- 
ion scheduled to take Brandscheid spent the 
morning rounding up Germans who had 



31 8th Inf AAR, Sep 44, and S-3 Jnl, 15 
Sep 44. 

32 Ibid.; Ltr, Barton to OCMH; Ltr, Maj Gen 
H. W. Blakely (former 4th Div Arty commander 
and later commander of the 4th Div) to OCMH, 
26 Jun 56. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



53 



infiltrated behind the battalion during the 
night. Few pillboxes now were unde- 
fended. A battalion of the 12 th Infantry 
spent several hours routing about sixty 
Germans from a nest of pillboxes at a 
crossroads, the Kettenkreuz (Hill 655). 
Two other fortified positions centering on 
crossroads occupied the 12 th Infantry for 
the rest of the day, so that by nightfall 
roads leading east still were out of reach. 

Though all advances by the 12 th and 
2 2d on 15 September were labored, they 
nevertheless had covered sufficient ground 
in diametrically divergent directions to 
create a gap between regiments of more 
than two and a half miles. Disappointed 
in the outcome of the 8th Infantry's 
maneuver farther north, General Barton 
saw a chance to secure the gap on the 
Schnee Eifel while at the same time ex- 
ploiting it as a possible point of break- 
through. He told Colonel Rodwell to 
move his regiment to the Schnee Eifel and 
drive through the middle of the other two 
regiments. The flank regiments would 
open adequate roads to him later. Hope 
that a breakthrough still might be accom- 
plished was nurtured by promising de- 
velopments reported during the day to the 
south in the zone of the 5th Armored 
Division. 33 

Unfortunately for the 4th Division, it 
takes only a few defenders to hold up an 
attacker in cruel terrain like the Schnee 
Eifel. Though the Germans had no re- 
serves to commit in this sector, they were 
able gradually to build up the 2d SS 
Panzer Division with replacements and odd 
attachments while the original few were 
fighting effective delaying action. By 16 
September, for example, the Germans had 
established a fairly strong blocking position 

33 See Msg, Gerow to CGs 4th and 28th Divs, 
15 Sep 44, 4th Div G-3 file, 14 Sep 44. 



across the Schnee Eifel to deny the 12th 
Infantry the coveted road leading east. 
The 1 2th Infantry's casualties soared in 
exchange for almost no further advance. 
Several days later, on 19 September, the 
Germans had obtained two companies of 
infantry and three Mark IV tanks with 
which to counterattack. They would 
have recovered some ground had it not 
been for the courage and resourcefulness 
of an American company commander, 1st 
Lt. Phillip W. Wittkopf, who called down 
artillery fire almost atop his own posi- 
tion. 34 

The difficulties of terrain were nowhere 
more evident than in the center of the 4th 
Division's formation where the 8th Infan- 
try began to drive down the wooded 
eastern slopes of the Schnee Eifel early on 
16 September. By nightfall the next day 
parts of the regiment were near the eastern 
edge of the forest; but behind them lay 
hundreds of yards of dense woods crossed 
only by muddy, poorly charted firebreaks 
and trails subject to constant enemy in- 
filtration. 

On the division's south wing, the 22d 
Infantry could attribute a lack of success 
against the village of Brandscheid to the 
backbone which West Wall pillboxes put 
into the German defense. The only bright 
development on this part of the front came 
in the afternoon of 16 September when the 
1st Battalion pushed out of the Pruem 
State Forest to seize a hill that com- 
manded the Bleialf-Pruem highway a few 
hundred yards west of the German-held 
village of Sellerich. Even this achieve- 
ment was marred by the loss from German 
shelling of some thirty-five men wounded 
and eight killed, including the battalion 
commander, Lt. Col. John Dowdy. 
Encouraged by the 1st Battalion's ad- 
34 Lieutenant Wittkopf received the DSC. 



54 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



vance, the 22d Infantry commander, 
Colonel Lanham, ordered continuation of 
the attack the next day to pass beyond 
Sellerich and seize high ground east of the 
Mon creek on the road to Pruem. Com- 
manded now by Maj. Robert B. Latimer, 
the i st Battalion faced terrain that tended 
to funnel its attack dangerously. In front 
of the battalion were three villages: 
Hontheim, on high ground to the north- 
east; Herscheid, on high ground to the 
southeast; and Sellerich, along the main 
highway in a depression exposed to the 
dominating ground on either flank. 
Because Major Latimer deemed his 
strength insufficient for taking the high 
ground, he saw no alternative to attacking 
directly down the valley. Recognizing 
the danger in this approach, he requested 
artillery fire to blanket the high ground 
and directed only one company to move at 
first to the objective. Company A was 
to take the objective, Company B was to 
follow soon after with attached tank de- 
stroyers and tanks to help hold the objec- 
tive, and Company C was to maintain the 
jump-off positions west of Sellerich. 

Even before the attack began, adversity 
overtook the ist Battalion. Into the 
morning of 17 September enemy shelling 
so unnerved several officers, including the 
commander of the attached tank platoon, 
that they had to be evacuated for combat 
exhaustion. About 0830, as Company 
A moved to the line of departure, another 
severe shelling so upset the company com- 
mander that he too had to be evacuated. 
1 st Lt. Warren E. Marcum assumed com- 
mand of the company. 

Still under German shellfire, Lieutenant 
Marcum and Company A moved quickly 
down the highway into Sellerich. They 
found not a single German in the village 



and continued unopposed across the Mon 
creek. By 1 1 00 they had occupied the 
crest of the objective, Hill 520. 

When Company B and the tanks and 
tank destroyers started to follow, one of 
the tank destroyers hit a mine in the deeply 
incised ravine of the creek. Almost im- 
mediately the Germans came to life. 
Opening fire with antitank weapons from 
both north and south, they drove the 
armor to cover in Sellerich. With inter- 
locking fires from machine guns and light 
caliber antiaircraft weapons, they sealed 
off the route of retreat. Mortar and 
artillery fire rained upon the trapped 
troops. East of the creek, about a hun- 
dred Germans began to counterattack 
Company A from two directions. Try as 
they would, Company B and the tanks 
could not cross the ravine to Lieutenant 
Marcum's aid. 

Fearful of losing the hill west of Sel- 
lerich, Major Latimer was reluctant to 
commit his remaining company. To make 
it available, Colonel Lanham called off an 
attack at Brandscheid to send tanks and 
a rifle company to hold the hill; but by 
the time this force could disengage, the 
situation at Sellerich and beyond the creek 
had so deteriorated that reinforcement 
appeared futile. 

Only minutes before Lieutenant Mar- 
cum was wounded, he requested per- 
mission to withdraw. Then his radio 
ceased to function. By the time Major 
Latimer got a decision from the regimental 
commander authorizing withdrawal, he 
had no communications with Company A. 
Although he sent two messengers forward, 
he could see no evidence that they reached 
the company. When the battalion S-3 
tried to get forward, he was wounded five 
times. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



55 



Whether Company A ever received 
the withdrawal authority became inci- 
dental; for when Lieutenant Marcum was 
wounded, the other officers apparently lost 
all control. Men began to get back 
individually and in small groups. A few 
made it out with Company B, but most 
who survived the action beyond the creek 
did not reach the ist Battalion's lines until 
after dark. A count showed later that 
but two officers and sixty-six men had 
escaped, a loss of more than 50 percent. 

The disaster east of the Mon creek for all 
practical purposes ended the battle of the 
Schnee Eifel. That night the assistant 
division commander, Brig. Gen. George A. 
Taylor, went to the corps command post 
to give details on the division's situation. 
He emphasized the damage the 2 2d Infan- 
try had incurred from shelling and counter- 
attack, the inadequacy of roads and trails 
through the Pruem State Forest, and the 
effect of the woods and adverse weather on 
American advantage in air, artillery, and 
armor. He noted also how vulnerable the 
division was to counterattack on both 
flanks. 35 

General Taylor actually had no major 
selling job to do at V Corps headquarters. 
Already General Gerow had called off the 
attack of the 28th Division. When the 
4th Division commander, General Barton, 
issued a new field order, he worded it in 
accord with confidential information that 
the First Army intended to call off the V 
Corps attack that night. 36 



35 Rpt, Gen Taylor to V Corps Comdr, 4th 
Div G-3 file, 17 Sep 44. Note that when the 
Germans launched their counteroffensive in this 
region in December, they cut off American troops 
on the Schnee Eifel by driving around both ends 
of the ridge. 

30 Ltr, Barton to OCMH; 4th Div FO 41, 17 
Sep 44, in 4th Div G-3 file, 1 7 Sep 44. 



For the next few days all three regi- 
ments of the 4th Division were to engage 
in local attacks to adjust their lines for 
defense, but they registered no major 
gains. The battle was over. Neither 
Germans nor Americans possessed either 
the strength or inclination to push all out 
for a decision. In four days of combat 
ranging from light to intense, the 4th 
Division had torn a gap almost six miles 
wide in the West Wall but at a point offer- 
ing no axial roads and few objectives, short 
of the Rhine, attractive enough to warrant 
a major effort to secure them. The 
breach had cost the division about 800 
casualties. 

Four major factors had worked against 
both the 4th and 28th Divisions in making 
the V Corps main effort. First, the cruel 
terrain and the West Wall had enabled a 
few Germans to do the work of many. 
Second, rain and generally poor visibility 
had denied air support, restricted observa- 
tion for tank and artillery fires, and 
produced poor footing for tanks. Third, 
a shortage of artillery ammunition, which 
in the case of the 28th Division had 
limited artillery units to twenty-five rounds 
per gun per day, had denied the infantry 
large-scale fire support and had afforded 
German guns an immunity that otherwise 
would not have existed. Fourth, an in- 
ability to concentrate had prevented either 
division from employing overwhelming 
weight at any critical point. The last 
factor had affected the 28th Division par- 
ticularly, for General Cota had possessed 
no reserve regiment. 

Had either General Gerow or the divi- 
sion commanders interpreted the authori- 
zation for a reconnaissance in force 
more broadly, they might have beaten 
the Germans into the West Wall. On 
the other hand, General Hodges, the 



56 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



First Army commander, had been dis- 
tinctly conservative in his authorization. 
Hodges, for example, had insisted that 
"all troops should stay tightly 'buttoned 
up,' " and Gerow had received a "definite 
impression" that the army commander 
would not sanction the corps becoming 
"involved" in the West Wall before 14 
September. 87 Even had the infantry divi- 
sions achieved a coup de main, might they 
not in exploiting it have encountered 
similar difficulties? Indeed, in view of the 
ammunition shortage and the dispersion of 
units, they might have had trouble even 
holding a major breach of the West Wall. 

Bridgehead at W allendorj 

From the viewpoint of both the V Corps 
and the Germans, the main effort by the 
infantry divisions actually had shown less 
promise of far-reaching results than had 
another attack in the south of the V Corps 
zone. Here an anticipated secondary ef- 
fort by the 5th Armored Division had 
developed into a genuine opportunity for 
a breakthrough which showed promise of 
welding the three separate division actions 
into a cohesive corps maneuver. 

Withheld from immediate commitment 
against the West Wall, the 5th Armored 
Division in the interim had drawn a 
variety of responsibilities. Not the least 
of these was securing approximately thirty 
miles of the corps front. The division 
commander, Maj. Gen. Lunsford E. Oli- 
ver, assigned Combat Command A and 
the attached 112th Infantry to patrol the 
southern portion of the zone, maintain 
contact with Third Army cavalry far to 
the south, and protect the city of Luxem- 
bourg. He designated Combat Command 

37 Sylvan Diary, entry of 14 Sep 44; Ltr, 
Gerow to OCMH, 29 Aug 53, OCMH. 



R to probe the West Wall with patrols 
along the central portion of the zone and 
be prepared upon order to attack the West 
Wall between Vianden and Echternach 
and seize the communications center of 
Bitburg on the Eifel's central plateau. 
He gave Combat Command B responsi- 
bility for the northern portion of the 
division zone and alerted it for commit- 
ment upon corps order to exploit any 
breakthrough achieved by the infantry di- 
visions. 38 

Observers in posts along the Our and 
Sauer Rivers, which separate Luxembourg 
from Germany, and patrols that probed 
the West Wall brought back similar re- 
ports: In some places the pillboxes were 
not manned; in others the Germans were 
hurriedly moving in. Though the Ameri- 
cans did not know it, this was the sector 
of the great gap between the / .S'.V Panzer 
Corps and the LXXX Corps, which was 
perturbing both enemy corps command- 
ers, Generals Keppler and Beyer. 

In the afternoon of 13 September, as 
the infantry divisions in the north closed 
to the West Wall, CCR conducted a 
reconnaissance by fire near the village 
of Wallendorf, about halfway between 
Echternach and Vianden. It failed to 
provoke a single return shot from the 
Germans. 

Convinced that the West Wall opposite 
the armor was no more than weakly 
manned, General Gerow in early evening 
of 1 3 September ordered General Oliver to 
advance. With one combat command he 



38 The 5th Armored Division story is based on 
official records and combat interviews. Nick- 
named Victory, the division entered combat with 
the Third Army on 2 August and joined the V 
Corps for the pursuit. • Troops of the 5th 
Armored Division captured historic Sedan and 
the city of Luxembourg. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



57 



was to attack through Wallendorf to 
seize high ground near Mettendorf, about 
five miles inside Germany, and then drive 
to Bitburg, twelve miles beyond the border. 
The i st Battalion, 112th Infantry, was to 
assist the attack. 

In directing an attack between Vianden 
and Echternach, General Gerow had exer- 
cised a choice between two existing ave- 
nues of approach into Germany in this 
region. One extends northeast from the 
vicinity of Wallendorf, the other almost 
due north from an eastward bend in the 
German border east of Echternach. 
Though the Wallendorf corridor is more 
sharply compartmentalized and has fewer 
good roads, General Gerow chose it be- 
cause it was somewhat closer to the 
infantry divisions (about fifteen miles). 

General Oliver decided to attack from 
the southwestern corner of the Wallendorf 
corridor at the village of Wallendorf itself. 
Here his right flank might hug the Nuss- 
baumer Hardt, a great forest barrier, 
leaving room for later broadening of the 
base of the penetration to the northwest 
and north. Though the ground rises so 
abruptly beyond Wallendorf that it re- 
minded some men of the Palisades on the 
Hudson, similar heights bar the way all 
along the entrance to the corridor. 

CCR knew little about the enemy 
situation across the border except what 
patrols and observers had discerned in the 
preceding three days. A number of pa- 
trols, including that of Sergeant Holzinger 
on 1 1 September at Stalzemburg, about 
eight miles northwest of Wallendorf, had 
encountered no opposition. Reports indi- 
cated that water seepage filled some pill- 
boxes and that dust blanketed the inside 
of others; but on 12 and 13 September 
observers had noted a few German soldiers 
entering the pillboxes. 



In light of the true German situation, 
the choice of the Wallendorf sector for an 
attack was fortunate. It was on the 
extreme right of the LXXX Corps, the 
weakest point in General Beyer's defenses. 
Not until the morning of 14 September, 
when the hastily recruited Alarmbataillon 
arrived from Trier, did any organized unit 
take over the sector. About two miles 
north of Wallendorf lay the boundary not 
only between the two enemy corps but also 
between the First and Seventh Armies and 
between Army Groups B and G. A cer- 
tain element of divided responsibility was 
bound to exist. 39 As for the West Wall 
itself in this sector, it was markedly thin 
because German engineers had leaned 
heavily upon the rugged nature of the 
terrain. Although all bridges near Wal- 
lendorf had been demolished, the river is 
only about forty yards wide and at this 
time of year f ordable at a number of points. 

The status of supply in the 5th Armored 
Division was similar to that in the rest of 
the V Corps, although the logistical pinch 
might not be felt so severely since only one 
combat command was to see action. The 
three-day pause in Luxembourg had en- 
abled the division to refill its fuel tanks 
and constitute a nominal gasoline reserve. 
Although artillery ammunition on hand 
was no more than adequate, a shortage of 
effective counterbattery fires in the coming 
offensive was to arise more from lack of 
sound and flash units and from poor visi- 
bility than from any deficiency in ammu- 
nition supply. 

Shortly after noon on 14 September 
CCR began to cross the Sauer River into 
Germany at a ford below the confluence 
of the Our and the Sauer. When no 
antitank opposition developed, the com- 



39 MS # B-081 (Beyer). 



38 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Wallexdoki- Civilians strive to save their belongings from the burning town after German 
troops have left. 



mander, Col. Glen H. Anderson, sent his 
armor and infantry across together. Al- 
though the enemy's Alarmbataillon had 
only small arms weapons, the troops de- 
fended with tenacity. Not until Wallcn- 
dorf was wreathed in flame and smoke 
caused by artillery fire, tracer bullets, 
and infantry flame throwers was the enemy 
dislodged. 40 ' 



40 Gentian propagandists cited the destruction 
of Wallendorf as evidence of "the Allies' will to 
destroy all Germans together with German 
culture and history." See Hq T Force, 12th A 
Gp, German Propaganda, Sunrise, 14 Oct 44, 
FUSA G-3 Tac file, 14- '5 Oct 44. 



The Alarmbataillon might have made an 
even better fight of it had not its artillery 
support, the Alarmbatterie , failed miser- 
ably. Court martial proceedings taken la- 
ter against the battery commander revealed 
that ( 1 ) he was a reserve officer of 
Luftwaffe signal communication troops, 
(2) he knew nothing about artillery, (3) 
the battery had possessed little ammuni- 
tion and almost no observation or optical 
equipment, and (4) among the entire 
enlisted personnel were only three trained 
artillerymen. 41 

~~ «' MsTb-oBj (Beyer). 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



59 



Continuing past Wallendorf, tanks and 
infantry of CCR knocked out lightly de- 
fended pillboxes to gain a firm foothold 
astride the first high ground, a promontory 
of clifflike terrain between the Sauer and 
the sharply incised Gay creek. As dark- 
ness came, the only exit the troops could 
find leading off the high bluff into the Gay 
gorge was blocked by a big crater. 
Awaiting results of further reconnaissance 
for another route, the tanks and armored 
infantry laagered for the night. 

The armor temporarily stymied by the 
blocked road, Colonel Anderson ordered 
the attached ist Battalion, 112th Infan- 
try, commanded by Lt. Col. Ross C. 
Henbest, to take up the attack. Colonel 
Henbest's infantry was to seize Biesdorf, a 
village beyond the Gay creek, capture of 
which should facilitate CCR's efforts to 
get off the high bluff the next morning. 
Unfortunately, the infantry lost direction 
in the foggy darkness and wandered aim- 
lessly through the night. 

Having discovered another road leading 
north to span the Gay creek at Nieders- 
gegen, the armor resumed the advance the 
next morning, 15 September. At the 
creek the combat command ran into an 
understrength company of Mark IV tanks 
supported by a scattering of infantry. In 
a noisy but brief engagement, the Ameri- 
can gunners accounted for 3 enemy tanks 
and 6 half-tracks and sent 5 other tanks 
scurrying to the east. CCR's only loss 
came later when a wooden bridge over the 
Gay collapsed under the weight of a Sher- 
man tank. The column crossed nearby at 
a spot that later came to be known by the 
dolorous name Deadman's Ford. 

The enemy armor encountered at the 
creek probably was the major portion of 
the Kampjgruppe of the Panzer Lehr Di- 
vision. Perturbed from the start about 



this American thrust, the First Army 
commander, General von Knobelsdorff, 
had announced his intentions late the 
day before "to commit all forces which 
could possibly be spared" to the Wallen- 
dorf sector. In the meantime, the 
Kampjgruppe of the Panzer Lehr and the 
remnants of the 5th Parachute Division, 
which held the line farther south near 
Echternach, were to do what they could to 
oppose the penetration. 42 

These two German units actually could 
do little more than harass CCR with a 
succession of small pinprick thrusts. 43 
Pushing northeast and east from Nieders- 
gegen, CCR moved virtually unopposed. 
In rapid succession the armor seized four 
villages and occupied Hill 407, the crest of 
the high ground near Mettendorf, the 
initial objective. Already CCR had left 
all West Wall fortifications in its wake. 
One column continued east and northeast 
and at dusk was nearing the village of 
Bettingen on the west bank of the Pruem 
River when German antitank guns sud- 
denly opened fire. Forced back in con- 
fusion by the unexpected resistance, the 
column withdrew a few hundred yards 
into the villages of Halsdorf and Stockem 
to await daylight before coming to blows 
with the German gunners. 

By nightfall of 15 September CCR had 
advanced through the West Wall and 
across the western plateau almost to the 
banks of the Pruem, some six miles inside 
Germany. Though the combat command 
actually controlled little more than the 
roads, the fact that a force could march 
practically uncontested through the enemy 
rear augured new life to hopes of a drive 
to the Rhine. With the armor apparently 
loose behind enemy lines, General Gerow 

42 Ibid. 

43 Ibid. 



60 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



conceived an audacious scheme to assist 
his infantry divisions and reopen his front. 
He told General Oliver first to seize Bit- 
burg, then to swing north on main roads 
to Pronsfeld and Pruem. This would 
place the armor squarely in rear of the 
enemy opposing the 28th Division and 
relieve the south flank of the 4th Division. 
The corps cavalry was to take over a 
portion of the 5th Armored Division's 
Luxembourg front to free another combat 
command, CCB, for the maneuver. The 
plan involved advances of from fifteen to 
thirty miles by two columns, parallel to, 
but deep behind, the enemy front. 

For their part, the Germans had quickly 
recognized the portent of the situation. 
One enemy headquarters reported in alarm 
that American troops were only three 
miles from Bitburg. With no reserves to 
send, General von Knobelsdorff at First 
Army headquarters called for help. 
When Army Group G passed on the plea, 
Field Marshal von Rundstedt, the OB 
WEST commander, replied at first that 
responsibility for sealing off the penetra- 
tion belonged to the army group, but he 
soon relented enough to order transfer to 
the LXXX Corps of two grenadier battal- 
ions and a flak regiment with eleven 
antiaircraft batteries. 44 

By shuffling troops in another corps, 
Knobelsdorff at First Army at last man- 
aged to put his hands on a reserve to send 
the LXXX Corps. He released a regi- 
mental combat team of the igth Volks 
Grenadier Division, which began moving 
north by truck during the night of 15 
September. The rest of the division, 
minus one regiment, followed two days 



"Entries of 15 and 16 Sep 44, OB WEST 
KTB (Text) ; Entry of 15 Sep 44, A Gp G KTB 
(Text); Evng Sitrep, 15 Sep 44, A Gp G KTB, 
Anlagen. 



later. In yet another move, Knobelsdorff 
reduced the corps sector by ordering the 
adjacent corps to take over the southern 
wing of the LXXX Corps front. 46 

In the meantime, while the Germans 
had been making these frantic moves and 
while CCR had been recording its rapid 
advance, Colonel Henbest's 1st Battalion, 
1 1 2th Infantry, had renewed the attack 
against Biesdorf. The battalion cleared 
the town by late afternoon of ^5 Septem- 
ber. On orders from the CCR com- 
mander, Colonel Anderson, the infantry 
then moved about two miles farther to 
assume positions protecting the southeast 
flank of the armor near the settlement of 
Stockigt. 

Organic engineers at the same time 
were constructing a treadway bridge 
across the Sauer at Wallendorf. Late in 
the day the attached 254th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion began construction of a 
wooden trestle bridge. Upon arrival of 
the engineer battalion, the organic en- 
gineers moved forward to begin demo- 
lition of captured pillboxes. 

At dusk (16 September) an engineer 
reconnaissance party investigating the Gay 
creek crossing at Niedersgegen ran into 
enemy small arms fire near Deadman's 
Ford. Two engineers were killed. The 
experience presaged the fact that the 
Germans were going to do something 
about CCR's penetration, for this was the 
first example of what was to become a 
continuing difficulty with German infiltra- 
tion into the undefended flanks of the 
penetration. 

Among the first to feel the effect was 
the supporting artillery, which was leap- 
frogging forward in order to support the 

45 MS # B-214 (Mahtey) ; Entry of 16 Sep 44, 
A Gp G KTB (Text); Sitrep, 17 Sep 44, A Gp 
G KTB, Anlagen. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



61 



next day's advance on Bitburg. When 
the 95th Armored Field Artillery Battalion 
tried to cross the Gay creek at Deadman's 
Ford, the column came under machine 
gun and mortar fire from the north. 
Though the CCR commander, Colonel 
Anderson, sent back a married platoon of 
infantry and tanks from Hill 407 to clean 
out the opposition, the force failed to 
reach the creek. On the way, about mid- 
night, the lieutenant in charge came upon 
a portion of the combat command supply 
trains that had avoided the enemy fire by 
cutting cross-country south of Deadman's 
Ford. Because the lieutenant knew that 
the trains usually followed the artillery, he 
assumed that the artillery already had 
passed and that the ford was clear. As 
a result, the opposition was not eliminated 
until the next day, 16 September, and 
soon thereafter German tanks appeared to 
interdict the stream crossing. Not until 
late on 16 September did all the artillery 
get into firing positions east of the Gay 
creek. 

The Germans hardly could have 
touched CCR at a more sensitive spot. 
Through most of 16 September Colonel 
Anderson held in place, wary of racing 
east with the armor until the artillery 
could get forward. By the time the big 
guns were ready to fire, a heavy fog had 
closed in and darkness was approaching. 
Enemy artillery had been moving up all 
day and had begun to shell CCR with 
disturbing accuracy. When the task 
force at Halsdorf and Stockem did launch 
an attack in late afternoon, the enemy 
near Bettingen proved to have lost none of 
his tenacity or fire power from the night 
before. The attack faltered almost im- 
mediately. 

Infiltration at Deadman's Ford and a 
lieutenant's error thus had cost CCR any 



advance on a day when every effort should 
have been made to exploit the penetration. 
As it was, only Colonel Henbest's 1st 
Battalion, 112th Infantry, gained any 
ground on 16 September. The infantry 
moved from Stockigt through Stockem, 
eastward to the Pruem River at Wett- 
lingen. Pushing quickly across the little 
river in the face of heavy shelling and 
small arms fire, the infantry by nightfall 
had seized high ground several hundred 
yards northeast of Wettlingen. Supported 
by a self-propelled tank destroyer pla- 
toon, Colonel Henbest's battalion had 
reached a point only five miles from 
Bitburg. 

In midafternoon CCB, commanded by 
Col. John T. Cole, had begun to cross 
into the Wallendorf bridgehead and as- 
sumed responsibility for the troublesome 
north flank near Niedersgegen. Even 
though CCR had not moved during the 
day, the presence of CCB and the success 
of Colonel Henbest's infantry engendered 
optimism. At the end of the day the 5th 
Armored Division G-2 doubted that the 
enemy had sufficient strength "to do more 
than delay us temporarily." 46 While the 
Germans had countermeasures in the 
making, all they actually had accomplished 
was to fling a papier-mache cordon about 
the penetration with every available man 
from the LXXX Corps and every man 
that could be spared from the adjacent / 
SS Panzer Corps, the latter to hold the 
north flank of the penetration with ele- 
ments of the 2d Panzer Division. 

No matter what the G-2 estimate or the 
true enemy situation, General Gerow at 
2040 on 16 September ordered General 
Oliver to call off the offensive. Consoli- 
date your force, he said, and send strong 



46 5th Armed Div G-2 Per Rpt, 16 Sep 44. 



62 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



patrols to develop the enemy situation in 
the vicinity of Bitburg. The armor was 
also to "mop up" the West Wall north and 
northeast of Wallendorf but was to make 
no attack on Bitburg except on corps 
order. General Gerow's directive meant, 
in effect, that the 5th Armored Division 
was to assume the defensive. It must 
have come as a shock to both troops and 
commanders. 

That the Germans had not stopped the 
V Corps armor was plain. The first real 
adversities to come in the Wallendorf sec- 
tor hit after the issuance of this order. 
The explanation for the halt appeared to 
lie instead in the decisions that had 
emerged from the meeting of General 
Eisenhower and his top commanders on 2 
September at Chartres and in a critical 
over-all logistical situation. 

In commenting later on the reasons for 
calling off the 5th Armored Division's at- 
tack, General Gerow explained the halt of 
all three of his divisions. 47 The plan, 
General Gerow said, had been agreed 
upon by General Hodges and himself. It 
was to have been an "investigation" pro- 
ceeding to the ambitious objectives if 
resistance proved "negligible." When de- 
fense actually proved "so stout," the First 
Army had instructed the V Corps "not to 
get too involved." 

The fact was that the V Corps had been 
operating on borrowed time and borrowed 
supplies. The presence of the corps this 
far east was attributable only to the fact 
that General Hodges had deviated from 
the Chartres instructions, giving the V 
Corps some of the limited gasoline avail- 
able rather than assigning all of it, as 
directed, to the other two corps next to 

47 Combat Interv with Gerow, filed with 5th 
Armd Div Inter vs. 



the British. Although Hodges had done 
this with an eye only to the limited objec- 
tives of closing the gap between the First 
and Third Armies and getting the V 
Corps across the obstacle of the Meuse 
River, he must have been reluctant to 
abandon without at least a trial the splen- 
did opportunity which had developed to 
put the obstacle of the West Wall behind 
in the same jump. Under the circum- 
stances he could have countenanced con- 
tinued logistical priority for the V Corps 
only if far-reaching successes could have 
been had for the asking. Though the V 
Corps obviously could have continued the 
advance, it would have taken some fight- 
ing to achieve it, no matter how makeshift 
the units with which the Germans had 
shored up the West Wall in the Eifel. 

Even had General Gerow not stopped 
the V Corps on 16 September, a halt 
within a few days probably still would 
have been imperative. The next day, for 
example, the 12th Army Group com- 
mander, General Bradley, brought to 
First Army headquarters a doleful picture 
of the over-all supply situation. "It is 
not improbable," noted General Hodges' 
aide-de-camp in his diary, "that we shall 
have to slow up, even altogether halt, our 
drive into Germany and this in the very- 
near future." 48 



48 Sylvan Diary, entry of 17 Sep 44. For a 
German viewpoint, see General Siegfried West- 
phal (chief of staff to Rundstedt), The German 
Army in the West (London: Cassel and Com- 
pany Ltd., 1951). "If the enemy had thrown in 
more forces he would not only have broken 
through the German line of defences which were 
in process of being built up in the Eifel, but in 
the absence of any considerable reserves on the 
German side he must have effected the collapse 
of the whole West Front within a short time." 
(Page 174) 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



63 



Defense of the Bridgehead 

The most serious trouble in the Wallen- 
dorf bridgehead began after dark on 16 
September, after General Gerow had 
called off the attack. Using air bursts 
from the antiaircraft guns of a newly 
arrived flak regiment with deadly effect, 
the enemy counterattacked the ist Bat- 
talion, 1 1 2th Infantry, near Wettlingen. 
Although the infantry held in the face of 
almost overwhelming casualties, Colonel 
Anderson on 17 September ordered aban- 
donment of the foothold beyond the 
Pruem. 49 

At dawn on 17 September German 
armor and infantry of the Panzer Lehr 
and §th Parachute Divisions struck several 
points along the eastern tip of the salient, 
while elements of the 2d Panzer Division 
hit Hill 407. Although CCR knocked out 
eight of the German tanks, not until about 
1000 could the combat command report 
the situation under control. The Germans 
captured one of the American tanks. 50 

Lamenting the basic failure of these 
countermeasures, the Commander in Chief 
West, Rundstedt, believed they might have 
succeeded had they been directed not at the 
tip of the salient but at the flanks close to 
the base at Wallendorf. sl Though Rund- 
stedt's criticism was largely justified, the 

49 Infantrymen gave much of the credit for 
their stand to two officers of supporting units: 
the forward observer from the 400th Armored 
Field Artillery Battalion, 2d Lt. Roy E. Gehrke, 
who was mortally wounded, and the commander 
of the attached platoon of the 628th Tank 
Destroyer Battalion, ist Lt. Leon A. Rennebaum. 
Both were subsequently awarded the DSC. 

50 German information from entries of 17 Sep 
44, OB WEST KTB (Text); Daily Sitrep, 17 
Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Sitreps, 
First Army, 17 Sep 44, A Gp G KTB, Anlagen. 

"Order, OB WEST to A Gp G, 17 Sep 44, 
A Gp G KTB, Anlagen. 



Germans nevertheless had used much of 
their strength to prevent the newly arrived 
CCB from expanding the base of the 
salient appreciably. In many instances, 
after pillboxes were taken, the Germans 
had infiltrated back into them. 

Unaware that the Americans had 
called off their attack, Rundstedt and the 
other German commanders saw the situ- 
ation as extremely serious. Late on 17 
September Rundstedt gave Army Group B 
a reserve panzer brigade, the 108th, for 
employment under the 2d Panzer Division 
against the north flank of the bridgehead. 
At the same time, General von Knobels- 
dorff at First Army laid plans to commit 
the igth Volks Grenadier Division in a 
counterattack against the south flank on 
18 September. 

Rundstedt also acted to remove the 
problem of divided responsibility occa- 
sioned by the location of the American 
strike along the army and army group 
boundaries. Extending the Army Group 
B and Seventh Army boundaries south to 
a line roughly the same as that between 
the First and Third U.S. Armies, he 
transferred the LXXX Corps to the 
Seventh Army. Responsibility for elimi- 
nating the Wallendorf salient passed 
entirely to Field Marshal Model's Army 
Group B and General Brandenberger's 
Seventh Army. 52 

Lack of time for preparation and a 

desperate shortage of ammunition and fuel 

forced postponement of . the igth Volks 

Grenadier Division's counterattack on 18 

September. As it turned out, this meant 

a stronger counterattack in the end, for 

52 Entries of 17 Sep 44, OB WEST KTB 
(Text); Daily Sitrep, Lageorientierung, and Daily 
Sitrep First Army, 17 Sep 44, A Gp G KTB, 
Anlagen; Daily Sitrep, 18 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Tagesmeldungen. 



64 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



during the day the 108th Panzer Brigade 
arrived. Early on 19 September the pan- 
zer brigade, the igth Volks Grenadier 
Division, elements (probably a regiment) 
of the 36th Infantry Division, and rem- 
nants of the Panzer Lehr were to launch 
an enveloping attack. In preparation, the 
Seventh Army issued two thirds of its 
entire fuel supply to the 108th Panzer 
Brigade, a somewhat shocking commen- 
tary upon the state of the German fuel 
situation. 1 "' 3 

The LXXX Corps commander, General 
Beyer, directed the 108th Panzer Brigade 
to hit the main positions of CCR on Hill 
407 from the north while the infantry units 
supported by the remnants of the Panzer 
Lehr attacked from the south. Unfor- 
tunately for the Germans, the Americans 
were ready, and a fortuitous break in the 
weather made possible the first major 
contribution by U.S. air since the crossing 
of the border. 

Knocking out ten German tanks, CCR 
sent the enemy armor and infantry reeling 
back from Hill 407 in disorder. Ad- 
justed from a light observation plane, 
American artillery followed the retreat. 
Taking quick advantage of the clearing 
weather, two squadrons of P-47 Thunder- 
bolts of the 365th Group took up the fight. 
The air strike was so effective that the 
First Army subsequently sent the squad- 
ron leaders 54 a special commendation. 

German artillery, which by this time 
had begun to fire on the bridgehead from 
almost every direction, eluded the pilots 
until the next day when the "enemy 

53 Entry of 18 Sep 44, OB WEST KTB 
{Text); Daily Sitrep, 18 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Tagesmeldungen; Forenoon and Noon Sitreps, 
18 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. 

54 Maj' William D. Ritchie and Maj John R. 
Murphy. IX Fighter Command and IX TAG, 
Unit History, Sep 44. 



caught hell." About fifty planes of the 
365th Group participated on 20 Septem- 
ber, primarily against German tanks and 
artillery. The artillery included a number 
of big railroad guns, of which the pilots 
claimed to have destroyed four. The 
armored troops rewarded the fliers with a 
laconic: "They sure do a fine job; thanks." 

If the airmen were good on 19 and 20 
September, they were superb the next day, 
21 September. For the first time since 
the West Wall campaign began, the sky 
was cloudless, the ground perfectly devoid 
of haze. So helpful was the three-day air 
effort that the V Corps commander was 
moved to -dispatch a letter of appreciation 
to the air commander, General Quesada." : ' 

In the meantime, during the big Ger- 
man drive of 19 September, Colonel 
Henbest's infantry and the tanks of CCB 
had thrown back the bulk of the igth 
Volks Grenadier Division on the south 
flank of the bridgehead. Nevertheless, 
about noon, an enemy group infiltrating 
from the southeast reached the eastern 
end of the two tactical bridges across the 
Sauer at Wallendorf. For about an hour 
the issue of the bridges was in doubt until 
finally fire from the engineers and from 
antiaircraft guns west of the river drove 
the Germans back. The bridges still were 
intact. 56 

Though the 5th Armored Division had 
held at all points, General Oliver saw a 
chance to improve the positions by reduc- 
ing the perimeter of the bridgehead. He 
ordered his battered CCR to withdraw. 
Defense of a reduced perimeter centering 
upon the high ground near Wallendorf 



53 Ibid. 

50 For courage in defending the bridges, ist 
Lt. Stanford F. Hall, 254th Engineers, and Pvt. 
Sheldon D. Jennings, 461st Antiaircraft Artillery 
(AW) Battalion, were awarded the DSC. 



V CORPS HITS THE WEST WALL 



65 



was to pass to CCB and a fresh battalion 
of the 1 1 2th Infantry. The infantry and 
CCB were to hold the bridgehead "until 
corps permits withdrawal." Now that 
all hope of continuing the offensive was 
over, the 5th Armored Division plainly 
looked upon the Wallendorf assignment 
with distaste. Keenly aware of the shock 
role of armor, many officers in the division 
were none too happy about performing 
an infantry- type defensive role. 57 

Heavy shelling and ground pressure 
continued against the reduced bridgehead. 
Despite relentless attacks by the same 
German units that had opened the drive 
on 19 September, CCB gave no ground 
except according to plan. Then, in late 
afternoon of 21 September, the V Corps at 
last gave approval to abandonment of the 
bridgehead. 

In pulling back across the Sauer before 
daylight on 22 September, CCB had to use 
the ford which the first troops to cross the 
river had employed eight days before. 
During the preceding night the Germans 
once again had penetrated to the Wallen- 
dorf bridges. In reporting the situation 
after having driven off this second infiltra- 
tion, CCB had made a notable use 
of understatement. "Only change," the 
combat command had reported, "[is] 
both bridges blown." 

Though the Wallendorf fight had ended 
in abandonment of the bridgehead, neither 
CCB nor CCR had incurred excessive 
losses in either personnel or equipment. 
For the month of September, for example, 
the entire 5th Armored Division, including 



57 This attitude is reflected clearly in combat 
intervs and in orders to CCR and CCB found in 
5th Armd Div G-3 Jnl, 16-22 Sep 44. See also 
Ltr, General Oliver to OCMH, 4 Jul 56. 



CCA, had incurred 792 casualties, of 
which 148 were killed or missing. Like- 
wise for the entire month, the division's 
nonsalvageable vehicular losses included 
only 6 light tanks, 1 1 medium tanks, and 
18 half-tracks. The 1st Battalion, 112th 
Infantry, incurred losses proportionately 
much heavier, more than 37 percent of 
the original command. 58 

At noon on 18 September, before with- 
drawal at Wallendorf, General Gerow re- 
linquished command of the V Corps to 
Maj. Gen. Edward H. Brooks, formerly 
commander of the 2d Armored Division. 
Having been chief of the War Plans Divi- 
sion of the War Department at the time of 
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 
General Gerow had been called to Wash- 
ington to testify in a Congressional investi- 
gation. In an optimistic farewell message 
to his command, he indicated that the 
opposition the Germans had mustered 
against his offensive had failed to impress 
him. "It is probable," General Gerow 
said, "the war with Germany will be over 
before I am released to return to the V 
Corps." 59 

Under General Brooks, the divisions of 
the V Corps rotated their battalions in the 
line while the corps staff worked on pro- 
posed plans for relief of the corps and a 
lateral shift to the north. In the mean- 
time, the Ardennes-Eifel front lapsed into 
a relative quietness that was to prevail 
until December. 



58 The Germans said they took 52 prisoners, 
counted 531 American dead, and destroyed 10 
half-tracks and 31 tanks. See Noon and Evng 
Sitreps, 22 Sep 44, OB WEST KTB (Text); 
Daily Sitrep, 22 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Tagesmeldungen; Noon and Evng Sitreps, 22 
Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. 

so v Corps Operations in the ETO, p. 256. 



CHAPTER IV 

VII Corps Penetrates the Line 



Having engineered the authorization to 
reconnoiter the West Wall in force on 12 
September, General Collins of the VII 
Corps expected to accomplish more by 
the maneuver than did General Gerow of 
the V Corps. General Collins had in 
mind a strong surprise attack which might 
breach the fortified line in one blow before 
the Germans could man it adequately. 
Even if he had to pause later for resupply, 
the West Wall would be behind him. 

Though oriented generally toward the 
region known as the Aachen Gap, the VII 
Corps operated in a zone about thirty-five 
miles wide that encompassed only a 
narrow portion of the gap. This portion 
was the Stolberg Corridor, southeast and 
east of Aachen. The rest of the zone was 
denied by dense pine forests in sharply 
compartmented terrain. Stretching north- 
east from Verviers, Belgium, for about 30 
miles almost to Dueren on the Roer River, 
the forest barrier averages 6 to 10 miles 
width. 



the - 



Within Bel- 

Hertogenwald ; 
Roetgen, Wenau, 
Only one logical 



in width. {See Map 
gium, it embraces 
within Germany, the 
and Huertgen Forests, 
route for military advance runs through 
the forests, a semblance of a corridor ex- 
tending from the German border near 
Monschau northeast across a village- 
studded plateau toward the Roer at 
Dueren. For convenience, this route may 
be called the Monschau Corridor. 



It was obvious that the main effort of 
the VII Corps should be made in the 
north of the zone through the more open 
Stolberg Corridor. Yet even this route 
had some disadvantages. At one point it 
is less than six miles wide. At others it 
is obstructed by the sharp valleys of the 
Inde and Vicht Rivers and by a congested 
industrial district centering on Stolberg 
and the nearby town of Eschweiler. 

General Collins entrusted the recon- 
naissance in force on 12 September to two 
combat commands of the 3d Armored 
Division and two regiments of the 1st 
Division. Each of the infantry regiments 
was to employ no more than a battalion 
at first. The infantry was to reconnoiter 
in the direction of Aachen, while the 
armor was to strike the face of the Stol- 
berg Corridor. Should the West Wall be 
easily breached, the 1st Division was to 
capture Aachen, the 3d Armored Division 
was to push up the corridor to Eschweiler 
and thence to Dueren, and the 9th Divi- 
sion was to operate on the right wing to 
sweep the great forest barrier. 1 

In the event, the reconnaissance on 12 
September failed to accomplish what Gen- 
eral Collins had hoped for. Not through 
any great German strength did it fail, but 
because roadblocks, difficult terrain, and 



1 VII Corps Opns Memo 91, 11 Sep 44, VII 
Corps Opns Memos file, Sep 44; FO 11, 13 Sep 
44, VII Corps G-3 FO's file, Sep 44. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 

occasional resistance held both armor and 
infantry outside the West Wall until too 
late in the day for an attempt to penetrate 
the line. Although a battalion of the ist 
Division's 1 6th Infantry got well into the 
line south of Aachen in the Aachen Mu- 
nicipal Forest, where pillboxes were sparse, 
a counterattack by about eighty Germans 
discouraged farther advance for the even- 
ing. After losing three tanks to a nest of 
cleverly concealed antitank guns, the left 
combat command of the 3d Armored 
Division stopped for the night a thousand 
yards from the West Wall. The second 
combat command sent two task forces 
probing generally east from Eupen. De- 
layed by roadblocks and mines, one task 
force came up to the West Wall south of 
the village of Schmidthof too late to make 
an attack. Encountering similar ob- 
stacles, the other finally reached Roetgen, 
just short of the pillboxes, in late after- 
noon, only to find entry into the line 
barred by dragon's teeth on one side of the 
road, a precipice on the other, and a big 
crater in the road itself. The task force 
laagered for the night in Roetgen. The 
West Wall remained undented. 

Still intent on pressing forward without 
delay, General Collins nevertheless inter- 
preted the results of the reconnaissance as 
an indication that farther advance might 
not be gained merely by putting in an 
appearance. In these circumstances, cap- 
turing the city of Aachen at this stage 
would serve no real purpose. The open 
left flank of the VII Corps might be 
secured by seizing high ground overlooking 
Aachen rather than by occupying the city 
itself. 2 The decisive objective was the 



2 Inlerv by the author with Gen Collins, Wash- 
ington, 25 Jan 54; Ltr, Maj Gen Clarence R. 
Huebner (former CG isr Div) to OCMH, 3 Sep 
53, OCMH. 



67 

second or main band of West Wall fortifi- 
cations which ran cast and southeast of 
Aachen. 

Reflecting this interpretation, General 
Collins told the ist Division to avoid the 
urban snare of Aachen and protect the 
left flank of the corps by seizing the high 
ground cast of the city. When the XIX 
Corps came abreast on the north, Aachen 
then could be encircled. The 3d Armored 




General Collins 



Division was to proceed as before to 
penetrate both bands of the West Wall, 
capture Eschweiler, and turn cast toward 
the Roer River; the 9th Division was to 
protect the right flank of the armor by 
penetrating the great forest barrier to seize 
road centers in the vicinity of Ducren. 
Though General Collins was not officially 
to label his advance an "attack" for an- 
other twenty-four hours, he was actually 
to launch a full-scale attack on 13 Septcm- 



68 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



ber under the guise of continuing the 
reconnaissance in force. 3 

General Collins specified further that 
advance was to be limited for the moment 
to the west bank of the Roer River, a 
stipulation probably based upon the phys- 
ical and logistical condition of the VII 
Corps. The troops, their equipment, and 
their vehicles had been taxed severely by 
the long drive across France and Belgium. 
Little more than a third of the 3d 
Armored Division's authorized medium 
tanks were in operational condition. 
Shortages in ammunition, particularly in 
105-mm. ammunition, necessitated strict 
rationing. The divisions often had to 
send their own precious transportation far 
to the rear in search of army supply 
dumps that had fallen behind. Trucks of 
the 1st Division made two round trips of 
700 miles each. 4 

For all these problems and more, the 
temptation to breach the West Wall before 
pausing was compelling. Even if the 
Germans had been able to man the line, 
there was some chance that they intended 
to fight no more than a delaying action 
within the fortifications, reserving the 
main battle for the Rhine River. "Mili- 
tarily," the VII Corps G-2, Col. Leslie D. 
Carter, noted, "[the Rhine] affords the 
best line of defense." Yet, Colonel Carter 
conceded, "for political reasons, it is be- 
lieved that the West Wall will be held in 
varying degrees of effectiveness." 5 Per- 
haps the most accurate indication of what 
the VII Corps expected came from the 
G—2 of the 9th Division. Vacillating for 



3 VII Corps Opns Memo 92, 13 Sep 44, VII 
Corps Opns Memos file, Sep 44; VII Corps FO 
11,13 Sep 44. 

4 See 3d Armd, 1st, and 9th Div AARs, Sep 44. 

5 VII Corps, Annex 2 to FO 11, 13 Sep 44. 



a while between two theories, the gth 
Division G-2 finally merged them in a 
prediction that the enemy intended to hold 
the West Wall but that he probably was 
capable only of delaying action. 6 

The first of the two bands of the West 
Wall facing the VII Corps was a thin 
single line closely following the border 
west and south of Aachen. This band the 
Germans called the Scharnhorst Line. 
About five miles behind the first, the sec- 
ond band was considerably thicker, par- 
ticularly in the Stolberg Corridor. Called 
the Schill Line, the second band became 
thinner in the Wenau and Huertgen 
Forests before merging with the forward 
band at the north end of the Schnee Eifel. 
Dragon's teeth marked the West Wall in 
the Aachen sector along the forward band 
west of Aachen and across the faces of the 
Stolberg and Monschau Corridors. 

Colonel Carter, the VII Corps G-2, 
expected the Germans to try to hold the 
two bands of the West Wall with the bat- 
tered remnants of two divisions and a 
haphazard battle group composed pri- 
marily of survivors of the 105th Panzer 
Brigade and the 116th Panzer Division. 
All together, he predicted, these units 
could muster only some 7,000 men. Ele- 
ments of two SS panzer corps, totaling 
no more than 18,000 men and 150 tanks, 
might be in reserve, while some or all of 
two panzer brigades and four infantry di- 
visions — all makeshift units — might be 
brought from deep inside Germany. 
"However," the G—2 added, "transporta- 
tion difficulties will add to the uncertainty 
of these units making their appearance 
along the VII Corps front." 7 



6 9th Div G-2 Per Rpts 58, 59, and 60, 12-14 
Sep 44. 

7 VII Corps, Annex 2 to FO 1 1. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



69 




General Brandenberger 



The German commander charged di- 
rectly with defending the Aachen sector 
was the same who bore responsibility 
for the Eifcl, the Seventh Armys Gen- 
eral Brandenberger. Not the Eifel but 
Aachen, General Brandenberger recog- 
nized, would be the main point of 
American concentration. Yet he had 
little more strength there than in the Eifel. 

As was the / SS Panzer Corps for a 
lime, the other two of General Branden- 
berger 5 s three corps were trying to hold in 
front of the West Wall while workers 
whipped the fortifications into shape. On 
the north wing, sharing a common boun- 
dary with the First Parachute Army at a 
point approximately six miles northwest of 
Aachen, was the LXXXI Corps com- 
manded by Generalleutnant Fried rich Au- 
gust Schack. General Schack's zone of 
responsibility extended south to Roctgcn 



and a boundary with the LXXIV Corps 
under General dcr Infanterie Erich 
Straube. General Straube's responsibility 
ran to the Schnee Eifel and a common 
boundary with General Keppler's / SS 
Panzer Corps near the Kyll River. B 

Probably weakest of the Seventh Army's 
three corps, Straube's LXXIV Corps was 
to be spared wholesale participation in 
the early West Wall fighting because of 
the direction of the U.S. thrusts. General 
Schack's LXXXI Corps was destined to 
fight the really decisive action. 

General Schack had to base his hopes of 
blocking the Aachen Gap upon four badly 
mauled divisions. Northwest of Aachen, 
two of these were so occupied for the 
moment with the approach of the XIX 
U.S. Corps that neither was to figure until 
much later in the fight against the VII 
U.S. Corps. At Aachen itself General 
Schack had what was left of the u6th 
Panzer Division, a unit whose panzer regi- 
ment had ceased to exist and whose two 
panzer grenadier regiments were woefully 
depleted. The fourth unit was the $th 
Panzer Division, earmarked to defend the 
face of the Stolberg Corridor. 

The gth Panzer Division had been re- 
organizing in a rear assembly area when 
Field Marshal von Rundstcdt had seized 
upon it as the only sizable reserve available 
on the entire Western Front for commit- 
ment at Aachen. Though traveling under 
urgent orders, only a company of en- 
gineers, three companies of panzer grena- 
diers, and two batteries of artillery had 
arrived at Aachen by n September. 
Desperate for some force to hold outside 

8 Greater detail on the Germans in the Aachen 
sector may he found in Lucian Hcichler. The 
Germans Opposite VII Corps in September 1944, 
manuscript prepared to complement this volume, 
filed in OCMH. 



70 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the West Wall, General Schack had 
merged the early arrivals with remnants 
of the 105th Panzer Brigade, which still 
had ten tanks. As might have been ex- 
pected, this Kampfgruppe gth Panzer Di- 
vision was damaged severely in its first 
action west of the German border on 1 1 
September. This was a harbinger of what 
was to come, for as other units of the gth 
Panzer Division reached the front General 
Schack would have to throw them piece- 
meal into the fighting and later shore 
them up with diverse reinforcements. 
The name "gth Panzer Division" thus was 
to become a collective term for a hodge- 
podge of armor, infantry, and artillery. 9 

Nominally, General Schack had a fifth 
unit, the 353d Infantry Division, but 
about all that was left of it was the 
division headquarters. Schack assigned it 
a sector in the Schill Line, the second 
band of the West Wall, and put under it 
a conglomeration of five Landesschuetzen 
(local security) and Luftwaffe fortress 
battalions and an infantry replacement 
training regiment. 10 

The LXXXI Corps had in addition a 
few headquarters supporting units, of 
which some were as much a hindrance as 
a help. Overeager demolition engineers 
of one of these units in rear of the 116th 
Panzer Division had destroyed bridges on 
1 1 and 1 2 September before the panzer 
division had withdrawn. A battery of 
Luftwaffe antiaircraft artillery in position 
near Roetgen panicked upon hearing a 
rumor that the Americans were approach- 



9 MS # B-730 (Brandenberger) . 

10 ETHINT-18 (Generalleutnant Gerhard Graf 
von Schwerin, comdr of the 116th Pz Div) ; 
Order, Seventh Army to a)] corps, 9 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Anlagen, Befehle: Heeres- 
gruppe, Armee, usw., 5. VIII. -21. X.44 (hereafter 
cited as LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: Heeres- 
gruppe, Armee, usw.). 



ing. Abandoning their three 20-mm. 
guns, the men fled. 11 

To General Schack's misfortune, he 
anticipated the VII Corps main effort 
against Aachen itself. Shoring up the 
116th Panzer Division at Aachen with 
three Luftwaffe fortress battalions and a 
few other miscellaneous units, he gave 
command of the city to the division com- 
mander, Generalleutnant Gerhard Graf 
von Schwerin. His limited corps artillery 
he put under direct control of Schwerin's 
artillery officer. For defense of the Stol- 
berg Corridor, he subordinated all mis- 
cellaneous units between Aachen and 
Roetgen to the gth Panzer Division. 12 

Other than this General Schack could 
not do except to wish Godspeed for 
promised reinforcements. Most likely of 
these to arrive momentarily was the 
3g4th Assault Gun Brigade, which had six 
or seven assault guns. A firmer hope lay 
further in the future. During 12 Sep- 
tember, Schack had learned that the first 
of three full-strength divisions scheduled 

11 TWX, 116th Pz Div to LXXXI Corps, 0155, 
12 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Anlagen, 
Meldungen der Divisionen [Div Sitreps], 25. 
VIII. -1. X. 44 (hereafter cited as LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Meldungen der Div); Tel Gonv, LXXXI 
Corps with 116th Pz Div, 0810, 12 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Anlagen, Kampfverlauf 
[Operations], 2.VIII.-21.X.44 (hereafter cited as 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Tel Conv, 
Seventh Army with LXXXI Corps, 0050, 22 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Anlagen, Befehle 
an Divisionen [Orders to Divs], 3.VIII -1 1 .X.44 
(hereafter cited as LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle 
an Div) . 

12 Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs, 2230, 12 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div; 
TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 2350, 22 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle; Daily Sitreps, 
1 16th Pz Div, 21 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Anlagen, Tagesmeldungen, 6.VIII.—21 .X.44 
(hereafter cited as LXXXI Corps KTB, Tages- 
meldungen); Tel Gonv, LXXXI Corps with gth 
Pz Div, 1500, 15 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampfverlauf. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



71 



to reinforce the Aachen sector in Septem- 
ber would arrive in a few days. Hitler 
himself had ordered the 12th Infantry 
Division, which was rehabilitating in East 
Prussia, to begin entraining for Aachen at 
0001, 14 September. 13 

Though hope existed, an observer in 
Aachen the night of 12 September could 
not have discerned it. Aachen that night 
was Richmond with Grant in Petersburg. 
While General von Schwerin was regroup- 
ing his 1 1 6th Panzer Division north of the 
city before moving into battle, only local 
defense forces remained between the 
Americans and the city itself. Through 
the peculiar intelligence network war-torn 
civilians appear to possess, this knowledge 
had penetrated to a civilian population 
already in a quandary over a Hitler order 
to evacuate the city. Entering Aachen, 
Schwerin found the population "in 

)5 14 

panic. 

Aware that the 11 6th Panzer Division 
could not fight until regrouped and that 
local defense forces were no match for 
their opponents, Schwerin was convinced 
that the fall of the city was only hours 
away. This, the German commander 
thought privately, was the best solution 
for the old city. If Aachen was to be 
spared the scars of battle, why continue 
with the civilian evacuation? Schwerin 
decided to call it off. Though he may not 
have known that Hitler himself had or- 
dered Nazi officials to evacuate the city, 
he must have recognized the gravity of his 
decision. He nevertheless sent his officers 
to the police to countermand the evacua- 
tion order, only to have the officers return 
with the shocking news that not only the 



13 Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs, 2230, 12 
Sep 44; Mng Sitrep, A Gp B, 12 Sep 44, OB 
WEST KTB (Text). 

14 ETHINT-i8 (Schwerin). 



police but all government and Nazi party 
officials had fled. Not one police station 
was occupied. 10 

Not to be sidetracked by this develop- 
ment, General von Schwerin sent his offi- 
cers into the streets to halt the evacuation 
themselves. By daylight of 13 September 
the city was almost calm again. 

In the meantime, Schwerin searched 
through empty public buildings until at 
last he came upon one man still at his 
post, an official of the telephone service. 
To him Schwerin entrusted a letter, 
written in English, for transmission to the 
American commander whose forces should 
occupy Aachen: 18 

I stopped the absurd evacuation of this 
town; therefore, I am responsible for the 
fate of its inhabitants and I ask you, in the 
case of an occupation by your troops, to take 
care of the unfortunate population in a hu- 
mane way. I am the last German Com- 
manding Officer in the sector of Achen. 

[signed] Schwerin. 

Unfortunately for Schwerin, General 
Collins at almost the same moment was 
deciding to bypass Aachen. No matter if 
innocently done, Schwerin had counter- 
manded an order from the pen of the 
Fuehrer himself. As proof of it, he had 
left behind an incriminating letter he 
would surely come to rue. 

The Battle of the Stolberg Corridor 

With the decision to bypass Aachen, the 
VII Corps scheme of maneuver became 
basically a frontal attack by the corps 

15 Ibid.; Rpt, Model to OB WEST, 2230, 15 
Sep 44, A GP B KTB, Operationsbefehle; Ltr, 
General der Infanterie Franz Mattenklott (com- 
mander of Wehrkreis VI, the military district 
which included Aachen) to Reichsfuehrer SS 
Heinrich Himmler, 15 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Meldungen der Div. 

10 Rpt, Model to OB WEST, 2330, 15 Sep 
44, A GP B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 



72 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



armor, protected on either flank by in- 
fantry, to penetrate the West Wall. 17 A 
corollary objective was the encirclement of 
Aachen in conjunction with the XIX 
Corps to the north. As events developed, 
because of terrain, the nature of resistance, 
and the delay imposed on the XIX Corps 
by the gasoline shortage, the battle actu- 
ally took on the aspects of three distinct 
maneuvers. The least spectacular was to 
develop primarily as a defensive engage- 
ment involving the bulk of the ist Division 
in containing Aachen. Another was to 
involve two regiments of the 9th Division 
in an attempt to break through the 
Monschau Corridor and secure the corps 
right flank in the forest barrier. The 
third and most critical was to be executed 
by the corps armor with an assist from a 
regiment of each of the two infantry 
divisions. This can be called the battle of 
the Stolberg Corridor. 

Commanded by Maj. Gen. Maurice 
Rose, the 3d Armored Division was to 
pierce the West Wall with two combat 
commands abreast. 18 From Roetgen and 

17 Interv with Collins, 25 Jan 54. 

18 Like the ist and 2d Armored Divisions, the 
3d was activated before adoption of the organiza- 
tion of three combat commands. Instead of 
three separate tank and armored infantry bat- 
talions, these divisions had two tank regiments 
and an armored infantry regiment. Though 
usually holding out a portion of the three 
regiments as a reserve, the divisions had no 
"CCR" per se. The table of organization 
strength called for 3,822 more men than the later 
armored divisions. Nicknamed Spearhead, the 
3d Armored entered combat with the XIX Corps 
in Normandy. The division joined the VII 
Corps for the breakout of the hedgerows, the 
Falaise gap operation, and the pursuit. At the 
instigation of General Rose, the division com- 
mander, combat commands in the 3d Armored 
Division were known by the names of their 
commanders. CCA, for example, was Combat 
Command Hickey. To avoid complications, the 
conventional CCA and CCB are used in this 
volume. 



Schmidthof, Combat Command B was to 
drive northeast along the fringe of the 
Roetgen and Wenau Forests, on an axis 
marked by the villages of Rott, Zweifall, 
Vicht, and Gressenich. After crossing 
the Inde and Vicht Rivers, CCB was to 
attack over open ground east of Stolberg 
to come upon Eschweiler, some ten miles 
inside Germany, from the south. Assail- 
ing the face of the corridor near Ober 
Forstbach, about three miles north of 
Schmidthof, CCA was to pass through the 
villages of Kornelimuenster and Brand to 
hit Stolberg from the west, thence to turn 
northeast against Eschweiler. 

The mission of the ist Division having 
changed from capturing to isolating 
Aachen, the commander, Maj. Gen. Clar- 
ence R. Huebner, planned to send his 16th 
Infantry northeast along the left flank of 
the armor. After penetrating the Scharn- 
horst Line — the first band of pillboxes — 
the 1 6th Infantry was to secure hills that 
dominate Aachen from the east. The re- 
mainder of the ist Division (minus a 
battalion attached to the armor) was to 
build up on high ground south and south- 
east of Aachen. 19 

Because the 9th Division still had to 
move forward from assembly areas near 
Verviers, the first participation by this 
division would come a day later. On 14 
September one regiment was to move close 
along the right flank of the armor through 
the fringes of the Wenau Forest while 
another regiment attacked northeast 
through the Monschau Corridor. 

The main attack began at dawn on 13 
September when the 3d Armored Divi- 

10 The exploits of the Big Red One, the ist 
Division, had become as renowned by this time 
as any in the American Army. The division's 
first combat in World War II was in the invasion 
of North Africa, followed by the invasion of 
Sicily and D Day at Omaha Beach. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



73 




Task Force Lovelady passes through the dragon's teeth near Roetgen, 15 September. 



sion's CCB under Brig. Gen. Truman E. 
Boudinot moved out in two columns. At 
Roetgen Task Force Lovelady (Lt. Col. 
William B. Lovelady) eventually had to 
blast a path through the dragon's teeth 
after dirt thrown in the big crater in the 
highway turned to muck. Not until late 
in the morning did the armor pass the 
dragon's teeth. As the task force pro- 
ceeded cautiously northward along a 
forest-fringed highway leading to the vil- 
lage of Rott, the Germans in eight pill- 
boxes and bunkers along the way turned 
and fled. In one quick blow Task Force 
Lovelady had penetrated the thin Scharn- 
horst Line. 20 



30 The 3d Armored Division story is from 
official records, plus an authoritative unit history, 
Spearhead in ike West (Frankfurt -am -Main: 
Franz Joseph Heurich, 1945). 



On the outskirts of Rott the picture 
changed suddenly when a Mark V tank 
and several antitank guns opened fire. In 
the opening minutes of a blazing fire fight, 
Task Force Lovelady lost four medium 
tanks and a, half-track. For more than an 
hour the enemy held up the column until 
loss of his Mark V tank prompted with- 
drawal. Because a bridge across a stream 
north of Rott had been demolished, the 
task force coiled for the night. 

At Schmidthof the second and smaller 
task force of CCB found the pillboxes in 
greater density and protected by a con- 
tinuous row of dragon's teeth. From 
positions in and around the village, the 
Germans had superior observation. The 
task force commander, Lt. Col, Roswell 
H. King, recognized that to carry the 
position he needed more infantry than his 



74 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



single company of 60 men; but he never- 
theless attempted an attack. German fire 
brought it to an abrupt halt, and night 
came before additional infantry arrived. 

A few miles to the northwest, the other 
combat command, CCA, attacked at day- 
light against a nest of four or five pillboxes 
at a point south of Ober Forstbach. 
Supported by tanks and tank destroyers 
deployed along the edge of a woods, the 
infantry battalion of Task Force Doan 
(Col. Leander LaC. Doan) got across the 
dragon's teeth before machine gun fire 
from the pillboxes forced a halt. Because 
mortar fire prevented engineers from blow- 
ing a gap through the dragon's teeth, tanks 
could not join the infantry. Their fire 
from the edge of the dragon's teeth failed 
to silence the enemy gunners. 

In midafternoon, when the attack ap- 
peared to have faltered irretrievably, 
someone made a fortuitous discovery a few 
hundred yards away along a secondary 
road. Here a fill of stone and earth built 
by local farmers provided a path across 
the dragon's teeth. Colonel Doan quickly 
ordered his tanks forward. 

For fear the roadway might be mined, 
a Scorpion (flail) tank took the lead, 
only to founder in the soft earth and 
block the passage. Despite German fire, 
Sgt. Sverry Dahl and the crew of the 
Scorpion helped a tank platoon leader, Lt. 
John R. Hoffman, hitch two other tanks 
to pull out the Scorpion. Climbing back 
into the flail tank, Sergeant Dahl tried the 
roadway again. This time he rumbled 
across. 

The other tanks soon were cruising 
among the pillboxes, but without infantry 
support. Pinned down and taking dis- 
concerting losses, the infantry could not 
disengage from the first encounter. With 
panzerfausts the Germans knocked out 



four of the unprotected tanks and ac- 
counted for others with three assault guns 
of the 3g4th Assault Gun Brigade. Hav- 
ing detrained at Aachen at midday, these 
assault guns had been en route to oppose 
Task Force Lovelady at Rott when di- 
verted to meet the new threat posed by 
Task Force Doan. 21 In an hour Colonel 
Doan lost half his tanks. Only ten 
remained. 

To guarantee this foray beyond the 
dragon's teeth, the CCA commander, 
Brig. Gen. Doyle O. Hickey, called on two 
platoons of tanks from another task force, 
plus the attached 1st Battalion, 26th In- 
fantry, provided from the division reserve. 
Together, Task Force Doan and the 
reinforcements were to push beyond the 
pillboxes to the village of Nuetheim, which 
affords command of roads leading deep 
into the Stolberg Corridor. 

At first, these reinforcements merely 
provided more targets for the German 
gunners, but as the approach of darkness 
restricted enemy observation, both tanks 
and infantry began to move. Blanketing 
Nuetheim with artillery fire, the armor of 
Task Force Doan reached the western 
edge of the village in little, more than an 
hour. Approaching over a different 
route, the fresh infantry battalion was not 
far behind. Because the hour was late, 
Task Force Doan stopped for the night, 
the first band of the West Wall left behind. 

Slightly to the northwest, the 1st Divi- 
sion's 1 6th Infantry in the attempt to 
advance close along the north flank of the 
armor had run into one frustration after 



21 Daily Sitrep, gth Pz Div, 13 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Tel Convs, 
LXXXI Corps with gth Pz Div, 1420 and 1830, 
13 Sep 44, and LXXXI Corps with 116th Pz Div, 
1430, 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



75 



another. The battalion which had en- 
tered the Aachen Municipal Forest the 
day before remained absorbed with small- 
scale counterattacks. Not until nightfall 
did the other two battalions fight their 
way past roadblocks and delaying detach- 
ments to approach the dragon's teeth not 
far from Ober Forstbach. A genuine 
attack against the West Wall by the 16th 
Infantry would await another day, after 
contingents of the 26th Infantry took over 
the i6th's left wing and the 18th Infantry 
moved up on the far left. 

Despite the tribulations of the infantry 
regiment and of Colonel King's task force 
at Schmidthof, the "reconnaissance in 
force" on 13 September had achieved two 
ruptures of the Scharnhorst Line. That 
both were achieved along the face of the 
Stolberg Corridor rather than at Aachen 
went a long way toward convincing the 
German commander, General Schack, that 
he had erred in his estimate of American 
intentions. 

General Schack had not been so sure 
when soon after noon he had ordered 
General von Schwerin at Aachen to coun- 
terattack immediately with the 11 6th 
Panzer Division to wipe out the Americans 
in the Aachen Municipal Forest. 22 Re- 
luctantly — for Aachen now would become 
a battleground — Schwerin had ordered his 
men to countermarch to the southern out- 
skirts of the city. Augmented by a few 
replacements, which brought the panzer 
grenadier battalions to an average strength 
of about 300, and by half the six assault 
guns of the 3Q4th Assault Gun Brigade, 
the panzer division nevertheless succeeded 
only in driving back American patrols. 
Though the Germans claimed they had 



22 Rad, LXXXI Corps to 116th Pz Div, 1230, 
13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



"closed the gap" south of Aachen, the 
Americans in the forest remained. 23 

By nightfall of the 1 3th General Schack 
had fewer doubts. The main threat ap- 
parently was in the Stolberg Corridor^ 
In response to pleas from the commander 
of the gth Panzer Division, Generalmajor 
Gerhard Mueller, Schack sent the only 
reserves he could muster — a Luftwaffe 
fortress battalion and a battery of artil- 
lery — to Kornelimuenster. The LXXXI 
Corps operations officer directed head- 
quarters of the 353d Infantry Division to 
alert its Landesschuetzen battalions to 
stand by for action because "the enemy 
will probably launch a drive bypassing 
Aachen . . . toward the second band of 
defenses." As the night wore on, en- 
gineers began to demolish all crossings of 
the Vicht River between the Wenau For- 
est and Stolberg in front of the Schill 
Line. 24 

The Drive on the Second Band 

General Collins' plans for renewing the 
attack on 14 September were in effect a 
projection of the original effort. On the 
left wing, the 16th Infantry was to try 
again to get an attack moving against the 
Scharnhorst Line. At Nuetheim CCA's 
second task force coiled behind Task Force 
Doan in preparation for a two-pronged 
drive northeast on Kornelimuenster and 



23 ETHINT-18 (Schwerin) ; Daily Sitrep, 
11 6th Pz Div, 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampfverlauf; Rad, 116th Pz Div to LXXXI 
Corps, 2235, 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Meldungen der Div; Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0100, 
14 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

24 Tel Convs, Gen Mueller with LXXXI Corps, 
1340, LXXXI Corps with gth Pz Div, 1730 and 
2030, LXXXI Corps with 353d Div, 2040, and 
LXXXI Corps with 11 6th Pz Div, 2320, 13 Sep 
44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



76 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Brand, thence into the second band of the 
West Wall near Stolberg. CCB prepared 
to continue from Rott into the Schill Line 
below Stolberg. While one regiment of 
the 9th Division began an attack in the 
Monschau Corridor, another, the 47th 
Infantry, was to move so closely along the 
right flank of the armor that it would 
become embroiled in the battle of the 
Stolberg Corridor. 

German commanders, for their part, 
did not intend to fall back on the Schill 
Line without a fight. Yet to some 
American units, the German role as it 
developed appeared to be nothing more 
than a hastily executed withdrawal. 
Cratered roads, roadblocks, and what 
amounted to small delaying detachments 
were about all that got in the way. 

As on the day before, CCB's Task Force 
Lovelady made the most spectacular ad- 
vance on 14 September. Sweeping across 
more than four miles of rolling country, 
the task force approached the Vicht River 
southwest of Stolberg as night came. 
Though the bridge had been demolished, 
the armored infantry crossed the river, 
harassed only by an occasional mortar 
round and uneven small arms fire. En- 
gineers began immediately to bridge the 
stream. On the east bank the infantry 
found a nest of 88-mm. guns well supplied 
with ammunition which could have 
caused serious trouble had the Germans 
used them. The infantrymen had to fer- 
ret the demoralized crews from their 
hiding places. 

Though General Mueller's gth Panzer 
Division by this time had begun to move 
into the Schill Line, this particular sector 
was held by one of the 353d Divisions 
Landesschuetzen battalions. Before day- 
light the next morning, 15 September, the 
men of this battalion melted away in the 



darkness. 2a When the American armor 
crossed a newly constructed bridge about 
noon on 15 September, the pillboxes were 
silent. Winding up a road toward Maus- 
bach, a village one mile north of a bend 
in the Vicht River on the planned route 
toward Eschweiler, the armor passed the 
last bunker of the Schill Line. Ahead lay 
open country. Task Force Lovelady was 
all the way through the West Wall. 

CCB's other prong, Task Force Mills 
(formerly Task Force King but renamed 
after Colonel King was wounded and 
succeeded by Maj. Herbert N. Mills), 
matched Task Force Lovelady's success at 
first. Because Lovelady's advance had 
compromised the German positions in the 
Scharnhorst Line at Schmidthof, Task 
Force Mills had gone through the line with 
little enough difficulty. But by midmorn- 
ing of 15 September, as Mills approached 
Buesbach, a suburb of Stolberg on the 
west bank of the Vicht River, the armor 
ran abruptly into four tanks of the 105th 
Panzer Brigade and four organic assault 
guns of the gth Panzer Division, a force 
which General Mueller v/as sending to 
counterattack Task Force Lovelady. 26 

Confronted with the fire of Task Force 
Mills, the German tanks and assault guns 
fell back. Task Force Mills, in turn, 
abandoned its individual drive and tied in 
on the tail of CCB's larger task force. 

Elsewhere on 14 and 15 September, 
General Hickey's CCA had begun to ex- 
ploit the penetration of the Scharnhorst 
Line at Nuetheim. By nightfall of 14 
September the combat command had ad- 
vanced four miles to the fringes of Eilen- 



25 Rad, gth Pz Div to LXXXI Corps, 0353, 15 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div. 

26 Tel Convs, LXXXI Corps with gth Pz Div, 
1740, 14 Sep, and 0015 and 1540, 15 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



77 



dorf, a suburb of Aachen which marks 
the beginning of the high ground east of 
the city. Here CCA waited for the 
arrival of the ist Division's 16th Infantry, 
which was to seize the high ground and 
protect CCA's left flank during the drive 
on Eschweiler. 

The 1 6th Infantry, General Hickey 
knew, would be there soon. After days of 
frustration with outlying obstacles, this 
regiment at last had launched a genuine 
attack against the Scharnhorst Line on 14 
September. The leading battalion found 
the pillboxes at the point of attack hardly- 
worthy of the name of a fortified line. 
Though skirmishes with fringe elements of 
the Aachen defense forces prevented the 
infantry from reaching Eilendorf the first 
day, the regiment entered the town before 
noon on 15 September. Fanning out to 
the west, north, and northeast to seize the 
high ground, the 16th Infantry by night- 
fall of 15 September had accomplished its 
mission. The ist Division now ringed 
Aachen on three sides. 

Upon arrival of the 16th Infantry, 
CCA renewed the drive northeast toward 
Eschweiler. Nosing aside a roadblock of 
farm wagons on a main highway leading 
through the northern fringes of Stolberg, 
the armor headed for the Geisberg (Hill 
228), an eminence within the Schill 
Line. As another unreliable Landes- 
schuetzen battalion fled from the pill- 
boxes, the going looked deceptively easy. 
Eight U.S. tanks had passed the roadblock 
when seven German assault guns opened 
fire from concealed positions. In rapid 
succession, they knocked out six of the 
tanks. 27 

27 German material from Tel Conv, LXXXI 
Corps with gth Pz Div, 1540, 15 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf ; Evng Sitrep, LXXXI 
Corps, 1700, i5 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Tagesmeldungen. 



For use in an event like this, General 
Hickey had obtained permission to supple- 
ment his armored infantry with a battalion 
of the 1 6th Infantry. He quickly com- 
mitted this battalion to help his armor 
clear out the guns and the cluster of 
pillboxes about the Geisberg. The fight- 
ing that developed was some of the fiercest 
of the four-day old West Wall campaign, 
but by nightfall the tanks and infantry 
had penetrated almost a mile past the first 
pillboxes. Only a few scattered fortifica- 
tions remained before CCA, like CCB, 
would be all the way through the West 
Wall. 

From the German viewpoint, the ad- 
vance of CCA and the 16th Infantry 
beyond Eilendorf was all the more dis- 
tressing because it had severed contact 
between the 116th and gth Panzer Divi- 
sions. Because the 11 6th Panzer Division 
estimated that an entire U.S. infantry 
division was assembling south of Aachen 
and almost an entire armored division 
around Eilendorf, General Schack was 
reluctant to move the 11 6th Panzer Di- 
vision from Aachen into the Stolberg 
Corridor. Almost continuous pounding 
of Aachen by American artillery strength- 
ened a belief that the city would be hit by 
an all-out assault on 16 September. Thus 
the German defense remained divided. 28 

In the meantime, the battle of the 
Stolberg Corridor had been broadened by 
commitment of the 9th Division's 47th 
Infantry close along the right flank of the 
3d Armored Division. So that the regi- 

- 8 TWX, LXXXI Corps to 116 Pz Div, 1 718, 
15 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div; 
Daily Sitrep, 116th Pz Div, 2100, 15 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Tel 
Conv, LXXXI Corps with 116th Pz Div, 0915, 
15 Sep 44, and Rpt on Situation in Aachen Area, 
Gen Schack, 2145, 14 Sep 44, both in LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf . 



78 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



ment might be available, if needed, to 
assist the armor, General Collins had spe- 
cified the route of attack. The regiment 
first was to roll up a portion of the Schill 
Line by outflanking from the east the 
towns of Zweifall and Vicht, both on the 
western edge of the Wenau Forest, then 
was to proceed along the fringe of the 
forest toward Dueren. 29 

Commanded by Col. George W. 
Smythe, the 47th Infantry began to move 
through Roetgen early on 14 September 
in the wake of Task Force Lovelady. 
Even after the route of the main column 
diverged from that of Task Force Love- 
lady, resistance was light. One battalion 
which moved into the Roetgen Forest to 
come upon Zweifall and Vicht from the 
east advanced rapidly, but the main 
column proceeding down a highway got to 
Zweifall first. While engineers began re- 
building bridges in Zweifall, a second 
battalion pushed into the forest to elimi- 
nate a line of pillboxes. 30 

On 15 September the situation in the 
forest near Zweifall and Vicht changed 
abruptly, not so much from German de- 
sign as from the confusion of chance 
encounters with errant Germans of a 
poorly organized replacement training 
regiment. Before daylight enemy esti- 
mated at less than battalion strength blun- 
dered into the perimeter defense of one of 
the American battalions. One of the 
first to spot the Germans, Pfc. Luther 
Roush jumped upon a tank destroyer to 
fire its .50-caliber machine gun. Though 
knocked from his perch by an enemy 
bullet, he climbed up again. Eventually 



29 VII Corps FO 1 1, 13 Sep 44. 

30 The 9th Division combat interview file for 
September 1944 contains a detailed account of 
this action, Penetration of the Siegfried Line by 
the 47th Infantry Regiment. 



the Germans melted in confusion into the 
forest. A mess sergeant on his way with 
food for one of the American companies 
bumped into a group of the fleeing enemy 
and captured six. 

Another battalion attempting to move 
through the forest to envelop Vicht ran 
into a German platoon accompanied by a 
Mark V tank. Though an American 
Sherman knocked out the Mark V with 
its first round, the morning had passed 
before all these Germans were eliminated. 
Through the rest of the day both the 
battalions in the forest found that almost 
any movement brought encounters with 
disorganized German units. It was fact 
nonetheless that in their maneuvers within 
the forest the battalions actually had 
penetrated a portion of the Schill Line. 

The fighting near Zweifall prompted 
the German corps commander, General 
Schack, to order General Mueller's gth 
Panzer Division for a third time to coun- 
terattack, "gth Panzer Division armor 
will attack the enemy," Schack directed, 
"and throw him back behind the West 
Wall. There is no time to lose!" 31 Al- 
though General Mueller tried to comply, 
his force could not advance in the face of 
heavy artillery, tank, and mortar fire. 32 

This was not to say that General 
Mueller could not cause trouble. Con- 
tingents of the gth Panzer Division dem- 
onstrated this fact in late afternoon of 15 
September, after Task Force Lovelady had 
crossed the Vicht River and filed past the 
silent pillboxes of the Schill Line. The 



31 Tel Conv, LXXXI Corps with gth Pz Div, 
0925, 15 Sep 44 LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf. 

32 Tel Conv, LXXXI Corps with gth Pz Div, 
1655, 15 Sep 44 LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf; Daily Sitrep, gth Pz Div, 19 10, 15 Sep 
44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



79 




Remains of a Pillbox, showing massive construction. 



highway between the villages of Mausbach 
and Gressenich lies in a shallow valley 
bordered on the southeastern rise by the 
Wenau Forest and on the northwestern 
rise by the high ground of the Weisscnberg 
(Hill 283). The expanse on either side 
of the highway is broad and open. As 
Task Force Lovelady reached a point not 
quite half the distance between the two 
villages, six or seven German tanks and 
self-propelled guns opened fire from the 
flanks. In quick succession they knocked 
out seven medium tanks, a tank destroyer, 
and an ambulance. Colonel Lovelady 
hastily pulled his task force back into 



Mausbach. Reporting that he had left 
only thirteen medium tanks, less than 40 
percent of authorized strength, Colonel 
Lovelady asked a halt for the night. 

Adroit use of a minimum of tanks and 
assault guns during the afternoon of 1 5 
September thus had produced telling 
blows against both main columns of the 
3d Armored Division — against CCB at 
Mausbach and CCA at the Geisbcrg. To 
the Germans, these events would have 
been encouraging even had the LXXXl 
Corps not been notified that night of the 
impending arrival of the 12th Infantry 
Division. First contingents were sched- 



80 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



uled to reach the Roer River towns of 
Dueren and Juelich during the night, and 
the entire division would arrive during 
the next thirty hours. 33 

Unaware of this development, the units 
of the VII Corps renewed their attacks 
the next day, 16 September. For the 
most part, the armored combat com- 
mands had a bad day of it, though no real 
cause for concern became evident. At 
the Geisberg the Germans mounted a 
local counterattack, but CCA's armored 
infantry soon disposed of it with concen- 
trated machine gun fire. Nevertheless, 
when CCA tried to continue northeast- 
ward through the industrial suburbs of 
Stolberg, intense fire from commanding 
ground brought both armor and infantry 
up sharply. To the east, CCB shifted 
the direction of attack from Gressenich 
to the Weissenberg, only to be denied all 
but a factory building on the southwestern 
slope. 

The 3d Armored Division's only real 
advance of the day came in late afternoon 
when the division commander, General 
Rose, acted to close a four-mile gap be- 
tween his two combat commands. Scrap- 
ing together a small force of tanks to join 
with the attached 1st Battalion, 26th 
Infantry, he sent them against high 
ground near Buesbach, within the Schill 
Line southeast of Stolberg. It was a hard 
fight, costly in both men and tanks, but 
the task force held the objective as night 
came. 

The difficulties of the 3d Armored Di- 
vision were offset by a spectacular advance 
achieved by the gth Division's 47th 
Infantry. With the aid of a captured 
map, the 47th Infantry cleared Vicht and 

33 Tel Conv, Seventh Army with LXXXI 
Corps 2015, 15 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampfverlauf. 



mopped up nearby pillboxes during 
the morning. Thereupon, one battalion 
pressed on two and a half miles northeast 
through the fringe of the Wenau Forest 
to seize the village of Schevenhuette, east 
of Gressenich. This late-comer to the 
West Wall fighting thus had advanced 
deeper into Germany than any other Allied 
unit, approximately ten miles. 

The 47th Infantry's deep thrust, which 
put a contingent of the VII Corps less 
than seven miles from the Roer at Dueren, 
augured well for a renewal of the attack 
the next day. On the other hand, indica- 
tions began to appear during late after- 
noon and evening of possibly portentous 
stirrings on the enemy side of the line. In 
late afternoon, for example, a platoon of 
the 1 6th Infantry patrolling north from 
Eilendorf reported the enemy approaching 
the village of Verlautenheide in a column 
of twos "as far as the eye could see." 
That night almost every unit along the 
front noted the noise of heavy vehicular 
traffic, and the 47th Infantry at Scheven- 
huette captured a German colonel who 
had been reconnoitering, presumably for 
an attack. Even allowing for hyperbole 
in the patrol's report, these signs had 
disturbing connotations. 

A Wall About Aachen 

While events in the Stolberg Corridor 
gave some evidence of reaching a climax, 
other events transpiring on the left and 
right wings of the VII Corps exerted a 
measure of influence on the fight in the 
corridor. On the left wing, at Aachen, 
the most significant development was that 
two regiments of the 1st Division unin- 
tentionally maintained the myth that the 
city was marked for early reduction. 
Thus they prompted the Germans to con- 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



81 



tinue to withhold the 116th Panzer Divi- 
sion from the more critical fighting in the 
Stolberg Corridor. 

In reality, the ist Division commander, 
General Huebner, had no intention of 
becoming involved among the streets and 
bomb-gutted buildings of Aachen. He 
was trying to build a wall of infantry 
defenses on the southwest, south, south- 
east, and east of the city while awaiting 
arrival of the XIX Corps to assist in 
encircling the city. It was no easy assign- 
ment, for the i st Division's left flank was 
dangling, and the defensive line eventually 
encompassed some eight miles of front. 

As the 1 6th Infantry tried on 13 and 
14 September to get through the Scharn- 
horst Line and advance alongside the 3d 
Armored Division, the 18th Infantry 
moved up west of the Liege-Aachen 
highway to push through the Aachen 
Municipal Forest southwest of Aachen. 
Before digging in on high ground in the 
forest, the 18th Infantry penetrated the 
Scharnhorst Line. A gap between the 
regiment's left flank and cavalry of the 
XIX Corps was patrolled by the ist 
Division Reconnaissance Troop. 

General Huebner's third regiment, the 
26th Infantry, was minus a battalion at- 
tached to the 3d Armored Division. To 
the remaining battalions General Huebner 
gave the mission of following in the wake 
of the 1 6th Infantry and filling in to 
confront Aachen from the south and 
southeast. By the evening of 15 Septem- 
ber, the basic form of the wall about 
Aachen had set, a half-moon arc extending 
from the 18th Infantry's positions south- 
west of the city to the 16th Infantry's 
advanced hold at Eilendorf. 

Stretched to the limit, the 18th and 
26th Infantry Regiments patrolled ac- 
tively toward the buildings and smoke- 



stacks of Aachen a mile and a half 
away and fought off enemy patrols and 
local counterattacks. It was no easy as- 
signment, for the Aachen Municipal For- 
est was damp and cold and the enemy 
was always close. 

The Germans, for their part, could not 
believe that the Americans would stop 
short of the city, particularly in light of 
the condition of the Aachen defenses. 
Charged with the defense, General von 
Schwerin's 11 6th Panzer Division was 
only a shell. Schwerin had only five 
organic battalions with a "combat 
strength" 34 of roughly 1,600 men, plus 
two Luftwaffe fortress battalions and a 
grenadier training battalion. In armor 
and artillery, he had 2 Mark IV tanks, 1 
Mark V, 1 organic assault gun, 4 assault 
guns of the 3g4th Assault Gun Brigade, 
g 75-mm. antitank guns, 3 105-mm. how- 
itzers, and 15 150-mm. howitzers. 35 

To add to the problems of the German 
commander, the panic which had struck 
the population of Aachen the night of 12 
September came back. Conditions on 14 
September, Schwerin said, were "catas- 
trophic." Because no police or civil 
authorities had returned, a committee of 
leading citizens begged Schwerin to form 
a provisional government with the city's 
former museum director at its head. On 
top of everything else came a special order 
from Hitler, this time through military 
channels rather than through the Nazi 



34 "Combat strength" is a translation of 
Kampfstaerke, which includes men actually en- 
gaged in the fighting or in immediate support 
forward of a battalion command post. See Gen 
Order Nr. 1/2000/44 S-> 2 5 Apr 44, OKH/Gen. 
St.d.H. Org Abt. 

35 These strengths are as of 16 September 1944. 
For a detailed breakdown from contemporary 
sources, see Heichler, Germans Opposite VII 
Corps, pp. 41-42. 



82 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



party, that Aachen was to be evacuated of 
civilians — if necessary, by force. Schwerin 
reluctantly agreed for the evacuation to 
begin. 36 

When police and Nazi officials returned 
to Aachen on 15 September, they found 
the civilian evacuation once more in full 
swing; but that wasn't enough to keep 
General von Schwerin out of trouble. 
Schwerin's compromising letter to the 
American commander had fallen into the 
hands of the Nazis. You are relieved of 
your command, they told Schwerin, to 
stand trial before Hitler's "People's Court." 

The fractious Schwerin refused to com- 
ply. The men of his division, he believed, 
would protect him. While he took refuge 
in a farmhouse north of Aachen, a recon- 
naissance platoon from his division sur- 
rounded his hideout with machine guns. 
Confident that the battle of Aachen was 
about to begin, Schwerin determined to 
stick with his division to the bitter end. 

As it gradually became evident that the 
Americans had no intention of fighting for 
Aachen immediately, Schwerin at last de- 
cided to present himself at Seventh Army 
headquarters to appear before a military 
court. Field Marshal von Rundstedt, the 
Commander in Chief West, apparently 
had interceded on Schwerin's behalf to 
get the trial shifted from a "People's 
Court" to a military tribunal. Rundstedt 
even proposed that Schwerin be reinstated 
as commander of the 116th Panzer Divi- 



30 Tel Convs, LXXXI Corps with Schwerin, 
0930, and with 116th Pz Div, 2345, 14 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Rpt, A 
Gp B to OB WEST, 1200, 14 Sep 44, OB WEST 
KTB {Text); Rad, 116th Pz Div to LXXXI 
Corps, 1 3 10, 14 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Meldungen der Div; ETHINT-18 (Schwerin) ; 
MS # B-058 (Generalmajor Heinrich Voights- 
berger, at this time commander of the 11 6th Pz 
Div's 60th Pz Gr Regt). 



sion. This last Hitler would not permit, 
though he agreed to no greater punish- 
ment than relegation to the OKH Officer 
Pool, which since the 20 July attempt on 
Hitler's life had become a kind of military 
doghouse. Surprisingly, Schwerin later 
emerged as commander of a panzer 
grenadier division and at the end of the 
war had risen to a corps command in 
Italy. 37 

Battle of the Monschau Corridor 

At the southern end of the VII Corps 
front, the gth Division in the meantime 
had launched an ambitious attack de- 
signed to clear the great forest barrier off 
the right flank of the Stolberg corridor. 
Though the 47 th Infantry on the fringe of 
the forest was making the announced main 
effort of the gth Division, the course of 
events had allied this regiment's attack 
more closely to that of the 3d Armored 
Division. The real weight of the gth 
Division was concentrated farther south 
in the Monschau Corridor. 38 

In terms of ground to be cleared and 
variety of missions to be accomplished, 
the gth Division had drawn a big assign- 
ment. The division's sector, for example, 
was more than seventeen miles wide. In 
sweeping the forest barrier, the division 

37 Rpt, Model to OB WEST, 2330, i5 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle; Tel Convs, 
G-i with G-3, LXXXI Corps, 1045, 16 Sep 44, 
and Seventh Army with LXXXI Corps, 1945, 17 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps, KTB, Kampfverlauf ; 201 
file on General von Schwerin, ETHINT-18 
(Schwerin) . 

38 Veteran of the invasions of North Africa and 
Sicily, the 9th Division had entered combat in 
Normandy on 14 June 1944. Its octofoil shoulder 
patch came out of the fifteenth century, a heraldic 
symbol denoting the ninth son. Official records 
of the division are supplemented by extensive 
combat interviews at battalion level. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



83 



would have to clear some seventy square 
miles of densely wooded, sharply com- 
partmented terrain. Other responsibil- 
ities included seizing road centers near 
Dueren, protecting the right flank of the 
3d Armored Division, and securing the 
right flank of the corps, which except for 
a thin cavalry screen was open for more 
than ten miles. 

In other than a pursuit situation, the 
9th Division's responsibilities clearly would 
have been out of keeping with the divi- 
sion's strength. Even as matters stood 
the only factor tending to license the scope 
of the assignment was the expectation 
that the enemy had no real strength in the 
forest. 

To all appearances, this expectation was 
correct. On 14 September, that part of 
the forest lying in the zone of the enemy's 
LXXXI Corps, north of Roetgen, was 
virtually unoccupied while General Schack 
concentrated on holding Aachen and the 
Stolberg Corridor. South of Roetgen, 
the weakest of the Seventh Army's three 
corps, General Straube's LXXIV Corps, 
had but two infantry divisions, the 347th 
and the 8gth. Hardly any organic forces 
remained in either division. 

The 347th Division, which held the 
southern portion of the LXXIV Corps 
front and thus was to be spared direct 
involvement with the 9th Division, was 
perhaps the weaker. So understrength 
was the division that when a training 
regiment, a fortress battalion, and a 
"Stomach Battalion" 39 were attached, the 



39 Special units comprised of men with similar 
physical disabilities were not uncommon along 
the Western Front during the fall of 1944. All 
troops of the so-called Stomach Battalions had 
ailments of the digestive tract. 



newcomers exceeded the organic personnel 
by more than ten to one. 40 

The other division, the 8gth, which held 
the Monschau Corridor, had few more 
organic forces left. Of two infantry regi- 
ments, one had been destroyed completely 
and the other had but 350 men. The 
commander, a Colonel Roesler, long ago 
had redesignated his artillerymen, en- 
gineers, and service troops as infantrymen. 
The only reinforcements upon arrival in 
the West Wall were a Landesschuetzen 
battalion, three Luftwaffe fortress bat- 
talions, 14 75-mm. antitank guns, about 
450 Russian "volunteers" in a so-called 
Ost-Batallion (East Battalion), and a 
grenadier training regiment. The Ost- 
Batallion and the training regiment pro- 
vided the 8gth Divisions only artillery. 
The former had four Russian 122-mm. 
howitzers; the latter, two pieces: a Ger- 
man 105-mm. howitzer and an Italian 
medium (about 150-mm. ) howitzer. 
When the Italian piece ran out of am- 
munition after two days of firing, the 
Germans towed it about the front to give 
an impression of artillery strength. 41 

The American division commander, 
Maj. Gen. Louis A. Craig, assigned re- 
sponsibility for pushing through the 
Monschau Corridor to the 39th Infantry. 
This regiment and the 47th Infantry, 
which was making the thrust alongside the 
3d Armored Division, together were to 
clear the forest barrier and converge near 
Dueren. The remaining regiment, the 

40 Entry, 1320, 12 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Kampfverlauf; TWX, A Gp B to OB 
WEST, 2350 and 2400, 22 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Operationsbefehle; MS # B-563 (Generalleutnant 
Wolf Trierenberg, comdr of the 347th Div). 

41 TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 2350 and 
2400, 22 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations- 
befehle; MS # B-793 (Col Hasso Neitzel, CofS, 
89th Div). 



84 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



6oth Infantry, had to serve both as a 
division reserve and as security for the 
right flank of the corps. Deducing that 
the flank might be secured by seizing a 
high ridge line southeast of Monschau, 
crowned by the villages of Hoefen and 
Alzen, General Craig told the 6oth In- 
fantry to send a reinforced battalion to 
the ridge. Covered with West Wall pill- 
boxes, this ridge represented in effect a 
fortified dagger pointed at the base of the 
Monschau Corridor and commanding the 
roads through Monschau. 

Under Lt. Col. Lee W. Chatfield, the 
reinforced battalion of the 6oth Infantry 
began operations a day ahead of the rest 
of the gth Division by moving to Camp 
d'Elsenborn, a road center and former 
Belgian Army garrison ten miles south of 
Monschau. From here Colonel Chatfield 
turned north early on 14 September to 
come upon the Hoefen-Alzen ridge from 
the southwest. Pushing back a small 
delaying detachment at the German 
border, the battalion occupied the border 
village of Kalterherberg. 

Though Colonel Chatfield attacked the 
Hoefen-Alzen ridge during the afternoon 
of 14 September, 350 men of the 1056th 
Regiment, representing the hard core of 
veterans available to the 8gth Division, 
already had occupied the pillboxes. 42 
When Chatfield's infantrymen crossed a 
deep ravine separating Kalterherberg from 
the ridge, they met the full force of small 
arms and machine gun fire from the pill- 
boxes. 

To make quick work of the ridge and 
get on with the main task of driving 
northeast up the Monschau Corridor, Gen- 
eral Craig decided during the evening of 
14 September to send the rest of the 60th 

42 For distribution of German units, see MS 
# B-793 (Neitzel). 



Infantry to help. Both remaining bat- 
talions were to move southeast from Eupen 
through the Hertogenwald to Monschau. 
Thereupon a battalion from Monschau 
and Colonel Chatfield's battalion at Kal- 
terherberg were to press the ridge between 
them. The remaining battalion was to 
defend at Monschau; in effect, a reserve. 

On 15 September Colonel Chatfield 
noted no slackening of fire from the pill- 
boxes opposite Kalterherberg. Nor was 
the weight of the other battalions around 
Monschau felt appreciably, because the 
length of the journey from Eupen and 
demolished bridges at Monschau delayed 
any real participation by them. Only the 
advent of supporting tanks on 16 Septem- 
ber had any real effect. With the help of 
the tanks, a battalion from Monschau 
drove into Hoefen on the 16th, but even 
then Colonel Chatfield could detect no 
break at the other end of the ridge. 
Indeed, the next day the Germans reacted 
actively with a counterattack which car- 
ried to the center of Hoefen before the 
Americans rallied. Not until 18 Septem- 
ber, when Colonel Chatfield abandoned 
the attack from Kalterherberg and joined 
the other battalion in Hoefen, did the 
enemy relinquish his hold on Alzen and the 
rest of the ridge. By a tenacious defense, 
the 1056th Regiment had tied up the 
entire 60th Infantry for five days at a time 
when the weight of the regiment might 
have been decisive elsewhere. 

General Craig obviously could have used 
the regiment to advantage elsewhere, par- 
ticularly in the Monschau Corridor. 
Here the 39th Infantry had been discover- 
ing how much backbone concrete fortifi- 
cations can put into a weak defensive 
force. 

That part of the Scharnhorst Line 
blocking the Monschau Corridor was one 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



85 



of the strongest in the forward band of the 
West Wall; for German engineers had 
recognized that the high, rolling plateau 
northeast of Monschau was a likely avenue 
for pushing through the forest barrier. 
Into the pillboxes the 8gth Division com- 
mander, Colonel Roesler, had thrust the 
1,200-1,500 men of his attached grenadier 
training regiment. This regiment subse- 
quently was to become an organic part of 
the division and be redesignated the 
1055th Infantry. 43 

Commanded by Lt. Col. Oscar H. 
Thompson, the 39th Infantry's 1st Bat- 
talion marched almost unopposed on 14 
September across the German border into 
the village of Lammersdorf at the northern 
edge of the Monschau Corridor. Colonel 
Thompson then turned his men northward 
to strike the West Wall at a customhouse 
a mile away. The customhouse guarded 
a highway leading northeast through the 
Roetgen Forest in the direction of Dueren. 

Hardly had the infantrymen emerged 
from Lammersdorf before small arms and 
mortar fire from pillboxes around the 
customhouse pinned them to the ground. 
Though Colonel Thompson sent two of 
his companies on separate flanking maneu- 
vers, darkness came before any part of the 
battalion could get even as far as the 
dragon's teeth. 

Soon after Colonel Thompson met his 
first fire, the 39th Infantry commander, 
Lt. Col. Van H. Bond, committed another 
battalion on Thompson's right. This bat- 
talion was to pass east through Lammers- 
dorf, penetrate the Scharnhorst Line, and 
take the village of Rollesbroich, two miles 
away. Capture of Rollesbroich would 
open another road leading northeast 



43 MS # B-793 (Neitzel). 



through the forest. But here again the 
Germans stopped the attackers short of 
the dragon's teeth, this time with anti- 
tank fire to supplement the small arms 
and mortars. 

In a renewal of the two-pronged attack 
on 15 September, the 39th Infantry dis- 
played close co-ordination between infan- 
try and attached tanks and tank destroy- 
ers; but the fortifications in most cases 
proved impervious even to point-blank fire 
from the mobile guns. Sometimes the 
Germans inside the pillboxes were so 
dazed by this fire that the attacking 
infantry could slip up and toss hand 
grenades through firing apertures, but 
this was a slow process which brought 
reduction of only about seven pillboxes 
and by no means served to penetrate the 
entire band. 

Attempting to open up the situation, 
Colonel Bond sent his remaining battalion 
far around to the north to pass through 
the Roetgen Forest in a wide envelopment 
of the customhouse position. By night- 
fall of 15 September this battalion had 
reached the rear of the enemy strongpoint, 
but not until after a full day of tedious, 
costly small unit fighting was the position 
reduced. 

Three days of bitter fighting had 
brought a path only a mile and a half 
wide through the Scharnhorst Line and no 
advance beyond the line. Even this path 
could not be used, for strong West Wall 
positions stretching south to Monschau 
commanded almost all roads leading to 
Lammersdorf. By holding between Lam- 
mersdorf and Monschau, the Germans still 
kept a dagger pointed toward the gth 
Division's flank and rear, thereby virtually 
negating the importance of the 60th In- 
fantry's conquest of the Hoefen-Alzen 
ridge. 



86 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



It had become apparent by this time 
that the 39th Infantry alone was insuffi- 
cient for pushing through the Monschau 
Corridor. Separated by more than seven 
miles from the 47th Infantry at Scheven- 
huette and five miles from the 60th Infan- 
try at Monschau, the regiment needed 
help. Not until 18 September, after the 
60th Infantry at last eliminated the enemy 
on the Hoefen-Alzen ridge, would General 
Craig be able to provide it. 

The Germans Strike Back 

Looking beyond the troubles of the 
39th Infantry to the situation of the entire 
VII Corps, the first five days of West Wall 
fighting had produced encouraging, if 
not spectacular, results. Though success 
probably was not commensurate with 
General Collins' early hopes, the corps 
nevertheless had pierced the forward band 
of the West Wall on a front of twelve 
miles and in the second belt had achieved 
a penetration almost five miles wide.- The 
VII Corps clearly had laid the ground- 
work for a breakthrough that needed only 
exploitation. 

On the other hand, was the VII Corps 
in a position to reap the rewards? The 
logistical situation, particularly in regard 
to 105-mm. howitzer ammunition, still 
was acute. Though supporting aircraft 
normally might have assumed some of the 
artillery missions, overcast skies, mists, 
drizzles, and ground haze had been the 
rule. Day after day since the start of the 
West Wall fighting the airmen had bowed 
to the weather: 13 September — "While 
we had cloudless skies, nevertheless, haze 
restricted operations . . . ." 14 Septem- 
ber — "Weather again proved to be our 
most formidable obstacle . . . ." So it 



had gone, and so it would continue to go: 
17 September — ". . . 77 sorties were 
abortive due to the weather." 18 Sep- 
tember — "Only two missions were flown 
due to the weather." Although the 
weather often was good enough for long- 
range armed reconnaissance flights, these 
provided little direct assistance to the 
troops on the ground. 44 

Nor was the condition of the divisions 
of the VII Corps conducive to encourage- 
ment. The 3d Armored Division, for 
example, had only slightly more than half 
an authorized strength of 232 medium 
tanks, and as many as 50 percent of these 
were unfit for front-line duty. 45 By 
nightfall of 16 September, every unit of 
the VII Corps was in the line, stretched 
to the limit on an active front which 
rambled for almost thirty miles from 
Aachen to Eilendorf to Schevenhuette to 
the Hoefen-Alzen ridge. Great gaps 
existed on either flank of the corps and 
gaps of seven and five miles within the 
lines of the 9th Division. 

The only genuine ground for optimism 
lay in the deplorable condition of the 
German units. The 8gth Division in the 
Monschau Corridor, for example, had re- 



44 IX FC and IX TAC, Unit History, Sep 44, 
and FUSA and IX TAC Daily Summaries, Sep 
44. A compendious account of tactical air oper- 
ations during the fall of 1944 may be found in 
Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., 
The Army Air Forces in World War II: Vol. Ill, 
Europe: Argument to V-E Day, January 1344 
to May ig45 (Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1951), pp. 600 and 614, (hereafter cited 
as Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: Argument 
to V-E Day). 

45 The 3d Armored Division on 18 September 
had 153 medium tanks, of which only 70 to 75 
were actually available for use. See 3d Armd 
Div AAR, Sep 44, and Combat Interv with 3d 
Armd Div G-4. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



87 



ceived no major reinforcements since the 
start of the fighting and obviously was 
even more of a makeshift than before. 
The division still had to rely for artillery 
support upon antitank guns and mortars. 
In the sector of the LXXXI Corps, 
neither the gth nor 116th Panzer Division 
had been shored up appreciably. Still 
facing the main weight of the VII Corps, 
the gth Panzer Division was in particu- 
larly bad shape. The division had less 
than 2,500 infantrymen, some 200 ma- 
chine guns, 13 Mark V (Panther) tanks, 
12 assault guns, 15 75-mm. antitank guns, 
20 105- and 15 150-mm. howitzers, and 1 
88-mm., 3 37-mm., and 3 20-mm. anti- 
aircraft guns. As of nightfall, 16 Sep- 
tember, the division lacked even a com- 
mander. Visiting the division command 
post, the Seventh Army commander, 
General Brandenberger, charged that Gen- 
eral Mueller was unaware of the actual 
situation on his front. He relieved both 
Mueller and Mueller's chief of staff. 46 

To reduce the gth Panzer Division's 
responsibility, the corps commander, Gen- 
eral Schack, transferred a few hundred 
men to the headquarters of the almost- 
defunct 353d Infantry Division and told 
that division to defend the Wenau, 
Huertgen, and Roetgen Forests from 
below Schevenhuette southward to the 
boundary with the LXXIV Corps. Gen- 
eral Brandenberger, in turn, eased the 
responsibility of the LXXXI Corps by 
transferring the 353d Division to General 
Straube's LXXIV Corps and altering the 



40 Rpt, Brandenberger to A Gp B, 16 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: Heeresgruppe, 
Armee, usw. See Heichler, Germans Opposite 
VII Corps, pp. 42-44, for a detailed breakdown 
of gth Panzer Division strength as determined 
from contemporary German sources. 



boundary between the two corps to run 
just south of Schevenhuette. 47 

These adjustments obviously were feeble 
moves hardly worthy in themselves of any 
great expectations. Nevertheless, the 
Germans did possess a genuine hope in the 
impending arrival of a fresh division, 
something which the VII U.S. Corps could 
not duplicate. The first contingents of 
the 12th Infantry Division arrived at 
detraining points along the Roer River 
early on 16 September. These and sub- 
sequent units of the division made a deep 
impression on a military and civilian 
population starved for the sight of young, 
healthy, well-trained soldiers. 

Numbering 14,800 men, the 12th Di- 
vision was organized along the lines of the 
"Type-1944 Infantry Division." It had 
three regiments of two battalions each — 
the 27th Fusilier Regiment and the 48th 
and 8gth Grenadier Regiments — plus a 
separate infantry unit, the 12th Fusi- 
lier Battalion. The division was fully 
equipped except for an authorized twenty 
assault guns, a defect which Field Marshal 
Model at Army Group B remedied by 
attachment of seventeen assault guns of 
the i02d Assault Gun Brigade. 48 The 
1 2th Artillery Regiment had its authorized 
strength of nine batteries of 105-mm. 
howitzers and three batteries of 150-mm. 
howitzers. The division's antitank bat- 
talion had twelve 75-mm. guns. Thanks 
to priority growing out of specific orders 
from Hitler and Field Marshal von Rund- 

47 Tel Convs, LXXXI Corps with 353d Inf 
Div, 2310, 14 Sep, and 15 10, 15 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Daily Sitrep, 
LXXXI Corps, 2100, 1 5 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Order, Seventh Army to 
all corps, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Befehle: Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw. 

48 These assault guns were similar to the 
American tank destroyer. See above, p. 27. 



88 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



stedt and of prevailing misty, rainy 
weather that had cloaked German trains 
from Allied aircraft, the 12th Division was 
arriving in record time and in top con- 
dition. 49 

"Seventh Army will defend the posi- 
tions . . . and the West Wall to the last 
man and the last bullet," General 
Brandenberger declared. "The penetra- 
tions achieved by the enemy will be wiped 
out. The forward line of bunkers will 
be regained . . . ." 50 

Cognizant of the dangers of piecemeal 
commitment, General Schack assured the 
12th Division commander, Col. Gerhard 
Engel, that he would try to wait until the 
entire division had arrived. 51 He kept the 
promise less than twenty-four hours. 
Straight from the railroad station at 
Juelich General Schack sent the first 
battalion of the 27th Fusilier Regiment 
to Verlautenheide, north of Eilendorf, 
whence the battalion was to attack on 17 
September to thwart the thrust of CCA, 
3d Armored Division, toward Eschweiler. 
The second battalion of the 27th Fusiliers 
moved to Stolberg. When the other two 
regiments and some of the organic artillery 
detrained before daylight on 17 Septem- 
ber, General Schack ordered them to start 
immediately driving CCB from the vicinity 
of the Weissenberg (Hill 283) and Maus- 



49 Rpt, A Gp B, 1335, 14 Sep 44, OB WEST 
KTB; Tel Conv, Model to Seventh Army, 1350, 
16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; 
TWX (Weekly Strength Report as of 1200, 16 
Sep 44), LXXXI Corps, 22 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Befehle an Div; Daily Sitrep, A Gp 
B, 0230, 17 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmel- 
dungen; MS # A-971 (Col Gerhard Engel, 
comdr, 12th Inf Div). 

50 Order, Seventh Army to all corps, 16 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: Heeresgruppe, 
Armee, usw. 

51 Order, LXXXI Corps to 12th Div, 2300, 15 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. 



bach in order to restore the Schill Line 
southeast of Stolberg. 52 

Renewing the two-pronged thrust 
toward Eschweiler on 17 September, both 
combat commands of the 3d Armored 
Division bumped head on into the German 
reinforcements. On the left, while CCA 
was getting ready to attack shortly before 
dawn, the Germans began a heavy artil- 
lery barrage against both CCA and the 
1 6 th Infantry at Eilendorf. Plunging out 
of a woods between Verlautenheide and 
Stolberg, men of the 27th Fusilier Regi- 
ment charged in well-disciplined waves 
with fixed bayonets. They made a per- 
fect target for prepared artillery and 
mortar concentrations. Those who got 
through the curtain of shellfire were cut 
down close to American foxholes with 
small arms and machine gun fire. 
Though the fusiliers tried again in the 
afternoon and prevented CCA from at- 
tacking, they gained no ground. Ameri- 
can casualties were surprisingly light. 
The hardest hit battalion of the 16th 
Infantry, for example, lost two men killed 
and twenty-one wounded. 

Split into two task forces, CCB attacked 
at midday to take the Weissenberg. The 
task force on the left ran almost immedi- 
ately into an attack by a battalion of the 
8gth Grenadier Regiment, while the task 
force on the right encountered a thrust 
by a battalion of the 48th Grenadier Regi- 
ment supported by three tanks. On the 
left, neither side could gain. On the 
right, the grenadiers shoved the armored 
task force back a thousand yards. Late 



52 Tel Convs, LXXXI Corps with 12th Div, 
0850 and 1800, and with 116th Pz Div, 2130, 16 
Sep 44; Tel Conv, Seventh Army with LXXXI 
Corps, 1 150, 17 Sep 44; Order, LXXXI Corps to 
12th Div, 1015, 16 Sep 44; all in LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Kampfverlauf, MS # A-971 (Engel). 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



89 



in the afternoon the enemy drive bogged 
down, but not before the situation had 
become so grave that the division com- 
mander, General Rose, had sent his reserve 
to CCB's aid. Though CCB noted the 
loss of only one light and one medium 
tank, the Germans claimed to have de- 
stroyed nine tanks and to have taken 
fifty-seven prisoners. 53 

The other battalion of the 48th 
Grenadier Regiment intended to retake 
Schevenhuette. Here the 47th Infantry 
commander, Colonel Smythe, had decided 
to delay his attack in view of the indica- 
tions of German build-up. In midmorn- 
ing, a patrol under S. Sgt. Harold 
Hellerich spotted the Germans moving 
toward Schevenhuette from the village of 
Gressenich. Notifying his company com- 
mander, Sergeant Hellerich waited for the 
Germans to enter an open field, then 
pinned them to the ground with fire from 
his patrol. At this point gunners in the 
main positions of the 47th Infantry raked 
the field with machine gun, mortar, and 
artillery fire. Observers estimated that of 
at least 200 Germans who had entered the 
field no more than ten escaped. 

Before daylight the next morning, 18 
September, a reinforced company of the 
48th Grenadier Regiment sneaked through 
the darkness to surprise the defenders of 
a roadblock on the Gressenich-Scheven- 
huette road. Undetected until too late, 
the Germans pushed quickly into the vil- 
lage, only to encounter an American tank 
hidden among the buildings. Assisted by 
nearby riflemen and machine gunners, the 



53 German sources are: Daily and Evng Sitreps, 
LXXXI Corps, 1620 and 2145, 17 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Sitrep, 
12th Div, 1340, and Tel Conv, LXXXI Corps 
with 1 2th Div, 1535 17 Sep 44, both in LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; MS # A-971 (Engel). 



tank's fire virtually wiped out the enemy 
company. Not until four days later, on 
22 September, did the 48th Grenadiers 
desist in their attempts to retake Scheven- 
huette, and then only after a full battalion 
had failed in the face of "murderous" 
losses. Schevenhuette, the survivors re- 
ported, had been turned into a veritable 
fortress, fully secured by mine fields and 
barbed wire and tenaciously defended by 
600-700 men. 54 

Even before this action at Scheven- 
huette, the very first day of active 
commitment of the 12th Division had 
shown the division commander, Colonel 
Engel, how difficult — perhaps how insur- 
mountable — was his task. On the night 
of 17 September, the Americans had be- 
gun to pound the fresh division with 
artillery fire of alarming proportions. In 
another few hours Colonel Engel was to 
report his units hard hit by casualties, 
particularly a battalion of the 8gth Regi- 
ment that was down to a hundred men, 
less than a fifth of original strength. 55 
Somewhat disheartened by the outcome 
of the counterattacks and possibly more 
than a little displeased at the piecemeal 
commitment of his troops, Colonel Engel 
called off offensive action for most of the 
division the next day to permit regroup- 
ing. 56 

On the American side, General Collins 
had noted that the advent of a fresh 
German division had changed the situa- 
tion materially. Though the Germans 
had gained ground in only isolated in- 
stances, he recognized that as long as his 

54 Daily Sitrep, 12th Div, 22 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

55 Evng Sitrep, LXXXI Corps, 1625, 18 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

56 MS # A-971 (Engel); Tel Convs, LXXXI 
Corps with 12th Div, 0400 and 0425, 18 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



90 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



adversary had reserves and he had none 
further large-scale advances were impos- 
sible. Ordering the ist Division, 3d 
Armored Division, and the 47th Infantry to 
consolidate, Collins directed the rest of 
the gth Division to shorten the corps 
line by cleaning out the forest between 
Schevenhuette and Monschau. 57 

The Onset of Position Warfare 

On the surface General Collins' order 
to consolidate looked like a sorely needed 
rest for most of the troops of the VII 
Corps. Yet the divisions were in the deli- 
cate situation of being through the West 
Wall in some places, being half through in 
others, and at some points not having 
penetrated at all. The line was full of 
extreme zigs and zags. From an offen- 
sive standpoint, the penetrations of the 
Schill Line were too narrow to serve 
effectively as springboards for further 
operations to the east; as a defensive 
position, the line was open to infiltration 
or counterattack through the great forest 
between Schevenhuette and Lammersdorf 
and through the daggerlike redan which 
the Germans held between Lammersdorf 
and Monschau. In addition, the posi- 
tions within the Stolberg Corridor were 
subject to observation from high ground 
both east and west of Stolberg. To 
eliminate these flaws, the VII Corps was 
destined to attack on a limited scale for 
most of the rest of September. 

The 9th Division drew what looked to 
be the major role. General Collins di- 
rected General Craig to drive through the 
Roetgen, Wenau, and Huertgen Forests 
to occupy a clearing near the villages of 

57 VII Corps Opns Memo 94, 18 Sep 44, con- 
firming oral orders issued the day before, VII 
Corps G-3 file, 18 Sep 44. 



Huertgen and Kleinhau, about six miles 
east of Zweifall. This would bring con- 
trol of the only good road net between 
the forest barrier and the Roer River and 
also knit together the two forces in the 
Stolberg and Monschau Corridors. At 
the same time, the combat commands of 
the 3d Armored Division were to seize 
heights on either side of the Vicht River 
valley at Stolberg, both to eliminate su- 
perior enemy observation and to merge the 
two penetrations of the Schill Line. Only 
the 1 st Division, in the half -moon arc 
about Aachen, was to stick strictly to the 
defense. 58 

As the fighting continued in the Stol- 
berg Corridor, both German and Ameri- 
can units wore themselves out. While 
the 3d Armored Division's CCA tried to 
take high ground about the industrial 
suburb of Muensterbusch, less than half a 
mile west of Stolberg, and CCB to occupy 
the high ground east of Stolberg, the 
enemy's 12th Division and what was left 
of the gth Panzer Division continued their 
futile efforts to re-establish the Schill Line. 
The result was a miserable siege of delib- 
erate, close-in fighting which brought few 
advantages to either side. 

Attachment of the remnants of the 
gth Panzer Division to the 27th Fusilier 
Regiment made CCA's task at Muenster- 
busch considerably more difficult. 59 Not 
until late on 19 September did troops of 
CCA gain a foothold in Muensterbusch 
from which to begin a costly, methodical 
mop-up lasting over the next two days. 

For two days CCB fought in vain for 



58 The development of corps plans may be 
traced in VII Corps Opns Memos 94-97, 18-20 
Sep 44. 

50 Tel Convs, LXXXI Corps with Engel, 2045, 
and with 12th Div, 2230, 18 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



91 



the Weissenberg (Hill 283) on the other 
side of Stolberg; then early on 20 Sep- 
tember a task force under Lt. Col. Samuel 
M. Hogan employed a radical change in 
tactics. Instead of an artillery prepara- 
tion and tank support, Colonel Hogan 
sent the attached battalion of the 26th 
Infantry forward alone under concealment 
of an early morning haze. Catching the 
Germans off guard, the infantry took the 
hill with hardly a shot fired. 

CCB's remaining task was to occupy 
the Donnerberg (Hill 287), another major 
height overlooking Stolberg from the east. 
The assignment fell to Task Force Mills, 
which with but fourteen effective medium 
tanks still was stronger than Task Force 
Lovelady. Screened by smoke and pro- 
tected on the east by fire of the combat 
command's tank destroyers, Task Force 
Mills dashed across a mile of open ground 
and took the height in one quick thrust. 

Holding the Donnerberg was another 
matter. No sooner had the smoke dis- 
sipated than the Germans knocked out 
half of the tanks. Afraid that loss of the 
height would compromise a switch posi- 
tion under preparation in the center of 
Stolberg, the Germans on 22 September 
mustered a battalion of the 27 th Fusilier 
Regiment to counterattack. 80 In the 
meantime, CCB's Task Force Lovelady 
had moved up the hill to strengthen Task 
Force Mills. In danger of losing almost 
all the combat command at one blow, the 
division commander, General Rose, au- 
thorized withdrawal. Behind a smoke 
screen the two understrength task forces 
dashed down the slopes into Stolberg. 
Here they found sanctuary, for in bitter 



60 Mng Sitrep, LXXXI Corps, 0525, and Daily 
Sitreps, LXXXI Corps and ti6th Pz Div, 21 Sep 
44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 



righting Task Force Hogan by this time 
had pushed the enemy back to the switch 
position across the center of the town. 

This was about all either Germans or 
Americans could accomplish in the Stol- 
berg Corridor. After 22 September the 
fighting died down. Despite grievous 
losses, the Germans actually ended up 
stronger than they had been since General 
Collins first opened his "reconnaissance in 
force"; for as the fighting died, reinforce- 
ments began to arrive. Unfortunately 
for the LXXXI Corps commander, Gen- 
eral Schack, they came too late to benefit 
him. On 20 September, because of 
Schack's connection with the Schwerin 
affair in Aachen, General Brandenberger 
relieved him of command. General der 
Infanterie Friedrich J. M. Koechling took 
over. 

The first major reinforcement to arrive 
was the 183d Volks Grenadier Division, 
which had to be employed north of 
Aachen against the XIX U.S. Corps. 
Having shored up the line there, General 
Koechling pulled out the depleted 275th 
Infantry Division and sent it southward 
to occupy a narrow sector around 
Schevenhuette between the 12th Division 
and the LXXIV Corps. On 23 Septem- 
ber a third full-strength division, the 
246th Volks Grenadier, entrained in Bo- 
hemia with a mission to relieve — at long 
last — the gth and 116th Panzer Divisions. 
These two units were to pass into reserve 
for refitting and reorganization. 61 



01 Tel Conv, Seventh Army with LXXXI 
Corps, 1 130, 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampjverlauf; Daily Sitrep, LXXXI Corps, 22 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; 
Order, LXXXI Corps to 275th Div, 1730, 22 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div; 
Order A Gp B to Seventh Army, 13 15, 23 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 



92 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



The First Fight in the Forest 

On the south wing of the VII Corps, 
General Collins' order to push through 
the forest barrier to the clearing around 
Huertgen and Kleinhau coincided roughly 
with completion of the 6oth Infantry's 
conquest of the Hoefen-Alzen ridge on 18 
September. Relinquishing responsibility 
for holding the ridge to the 4th Cavalry 
Group, the division commander, General 
Craig, left one battalion behind to back 
up the cavalry and moved the rest of the 
regiment northward for commitment in 
the forest. To make up for the battalion 
left behind, General Craig withdrew the 
1st Battalion, 39th Infantry, from the 
fighting in the Monschau Corridor and 
attached it to the 60th Infantry. 

The new drive through the forest in no 
way lessened the necessity for the 39th 
Infantry to enlarge the penetration of the 
West Wall in the Monschau Corridor. 
Given no respite, the two remaining bat- 
talions of the regiment were to fight 
doggedly for the rest of the month in 
quest of two dominating pieces of terrain 
which would secure the penetration. 
These were Hill 554, within the West 
Wall south of Lammersdorf, and an open 
ridge between Lammersdorf and Rolles- 
broich. 

By this time the American battalions 
had developed closely co-ordinated pat- 
terns of maneuver with their attached 
tanks and tank destroyers, but at best 
reduction of the pillboxes was slow and 
costly. Late on 19 September success 
appeared imminent when tanks and in- 
fantry plunged through the line more than 
two miles toward Rollesbroich, but so 
fatigued and depleted were the companies 
that they had no energy left to exploit the 
gain. Having failed to reach Rolles- 



broich, the thrust provided no real control 
of an important road net leading north- 
east from the village. Hill 554 was finally 
secured on 29 September after two tenu- 
ous holds on it had given way. 

In the meantime, the 60th Infantry's 
attempt to push through the forest and 
seize the road net around Huertgen and 
Kleinhau also had begun on 19 Septem- 
ber. Something of the confusion the 
dense forest would promote was apparent 
on the first day when the lead battalion 
"attacked" up the main supply route 
leading to the 47th Infantry at Scheven- 
huette. 

Embracing approximately seven miles, 
the 60th Infantry front in the forest cor- 
responded roughly to the sector which the 
enemy's nondescript 353d Infantry Di- 
vision had assumed when transferred from 
the LXXXI to the LXXIV Corps. The 
60th Infantry commander, Col. Jesse L. 
Gibney, planned to attack with two bat- 
talions moving directly through the center 
of the forest. This was tantamount to 
two separate operations; for as Colonel 
Gibney knew, secure flanks within a for- 
ested zone seven miles wide would become 
a fancy that one had read about long ago 
in the field manuals. 

The attached 1st Battalion, 39th In- 
fantry, commanded by Colonel Thomp- 
son, was to move almost due east from 
Zweifall to seize a complex of trails in the 
valley of the Weisser Weh Creek, about a 
mile from the woods line at Huertgen. 
Colonel Gibney intended later to send this 
battalion into Huertgen, thence northeast 
to the village of Kleinhau, only three miles 
from the flank of the 47th Infantry at 
Schevenhuette. On the right, a battalion 
of the 60th Infantry under Colonel Chat- 
field was to advance southeast from 
Zweifall, follow the trace of the second 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



93 



band of the West Wall, and occupy an 
initial objective astride a wooded ridge 
just north of Deadman's Moor (Todten 
Bruch), a stretch of marshy ground 
along the Lammersdorf-Huertgen high- 
way. Colonel Chatfield's battalion then 
was to continue east through about two 
more miles of forest to cut the Lammers- 
dorf-Huertgen highway at the village of 
Germeter. 

Experiencing more difficulty from ter- 
rain than from the enemy, Colonel 
Thompson's ist Battalion reached the 
valley of the Weisser Weh by nightfall of 
20 September. Though Colonel Gibney 
ordered a push the next day into Huert- 
gen, the enemy awoke at daylight to the 
battalion's presence. Colonel Thompson's 
men spent the entire day beating off 
diverse elements of the 353d Division and 
trying to get tanks and tank destroyers 
forward over muddy firebreaks and trails 
to assist the attack on Huertgen. 

Before the battalion could get going on 
22 September, orders came to cancel the 
attack. Colonel Thompson was to move 
north to back up the 47th Infantry at 
Schevenhuette where the 12th Division'?, 
48th Regiment was threatening to push in 
that regiment's advanced position. The 
division commander, General Craig, also 
sent the 60th Infantry's reserve battalion 
northward to Schevenhuette. 

Even though neither of these battalions 
had to be committed actively at Scheven- 
huette, concern over the situation there 
had served to erase the penetration 
through the forest to the valley of the 
Weisser Weh. By the time Colonel 
Thompson's battalion became available to 
return three days later, on 25 September, 
the Germans had moved into the Weisser 
Weh valley in strength. Not only that; 
now Colonel Thompson's men had to go 



to the aid of Colonel Chatfield's battalion 
astride the wooded ridge near Deadman's 
Moor. 

Colonel Chatfield's battalion of the 
60th Infantry had found the opposition 
tough from the outset. Strengthened by 
the pillboxes in the Schill Line, the Ger- 
mans clung like beggar lice to every 
position. Two days of fighting carried 
the battalion over a thousand yards to the 
western slopes of the objective, the ridge 
north of Deadman's Moor; but the next 
morning, 22 September, the Germans be- 
gan to counterattack. 

The counterattack resulted from direct 
intervention by the Seventh Army com- 
mander, General Brandenberger. Con- 
cerned about American advances in the 
forest on 20 September, Brandenberger 
had transferred an understrength assault 
gun brigade from the LXXXI Corps to 
the 353d Division. About this brigade 
the 353d Division had assembled a bat- 
talion each of infantry and engineers, an 
artillery battery, and five 7 5 -mm. antitank 
guns. 62 

Though the counterattack on 22 Sep- 
tember made no spectacular headway, 
close combat raged back and forth along 
the wooded ridge for the next three days. 
The fighting centered primarily on posses- 
sesion of a nest of three pillboxes that 
changed hands time after time. Having 
entered the forest with only about a hun- 
dred men per rifle company, Colonel 
Chatfield's battalion felt its casualties 



62 Tel Conv, LXXXI Corps with 353d Div, 
1720, 21 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf; Order, Seventh Army to LXXXI Corps, 
1940 21 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: 
Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw.; Evng Sitrep, A Gp 
B, 1840, 21 Sep 44, A Gp- B KTB, Letzte 
Meldung; Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 01 10, 22 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 



94 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



acutely. Though a few wide-eyed re- 
placements arrived, the rate of attrition 
proved far greater than the build-up. At 
one point the Germans overran a pillbox 
and captured forty-five men, including all 
officers and the command group of one of 
the companies. Only thirty disorganized 
men remained in that company. 

By 25 September losses had become so 
oppressive that the regimental commander, 
Colonel Gibney, saw no hope for the 
battalion's renewing the attack. Altering 
his plan of maneuver, he sent both his 
reserve battalion and Colonel Thompson's 
1 st Battalion, 39th Infantry, to take over 
the assault role. From the contested 
ridge, these two battalions were to drive 
south through Deadman's Moor, cut the 
Lammersdorf-Huertgen road, and make 
contact to the southwest with that part of 
the 39th Infantry which had pierced the 
forward band of the West Wall at 
the customhouse near Lammersdorf. If 
this could be accomplished, the 60th In- 
fantry would have carved out a sizable 
salient into the forest and would have 
secured at least one of its flanks. Then 
the regiment conceivably might renew the 
drive northeast up the highway to the 
original objective of Huertgen. 

Both battalions attacked early on 26 
September. Five days later, by the end 
of the month, the 60th Infantry at last 
had cut the Lammersdorf-Huertgen high- 
way near Jaegerhaus, a hunting lodge 
that marked a junction of the highway 
with a road leading northwest through 
the forest to Zweifall. But it had been 
a costly, frustrating procession of attack 
followed by counterattack, a weary, plod- 
ding fight that pitted individual against 
individual and afforded little opportunity 
for utilizing American superiority in artil- 
lery, air, and armor. Enemy patrols 



constantly infiltrated supply lines. Al- 
though units at night adopted the 
perimeter defense of jungle warfare, the 
perimeter still might have to be cleared of 
Germans before the new day's attack 
could begin. So heavy a toll did the 
fighting take that at the end of the month 
the 60th Infantry and the attached bat- 
talion from the 39th Infantry were in no 
condition to resume the attack toward 
Huertgen. 

The Germans had effectively utilized 
terrain, the West Wall, and persistent 
small-unit maneuver to thwart the limited 
objective attack of the widespread 9th 
Division. As others had been discovering 
all along the First Army front, General 
Craig had found his frontage too great, 
his units too spent and depleted, and a 
combination of enemy and terrain too 
effective to enable the division to reach its 
objectives. In the specialized pillbox and 
forest warfare, "the cost of learning 'on 
the job' was high." 63 

As events were to develop, the 9th 
Division was the first of a steady proces- 
sion of American units which in subse- 
quent weeks were to find gloom, misery, 
and tragedy synonymous with the name 
Huertgen Forest. Technically, the Huert- 
gen Forest lies along the middle eastern 
portion of the forest barrier, but the name 
was to catch on with American soldiers to 
the exclusion of the names Roetgen and 
Wenau. Few could distinguish one dank 
stretch of evergreens from another, one 
abrupt ridge from another. Even atop 
the ridges, the floor of the forest was a trap 
for heavy autumn rains. By the time 
both American and German artillery had 
done with the forest, the setting would 



3 - Ltr, Craig to OCMH, 3 1 Aug 53. 



VII CORPS PENETRATES THE LINE 



95 



look like a battlefield designed by the 
Archfiend himself. 

The VII Corps was stopped. "A com- 
bination of things stopped us," General 
Collins recalled later. "We ran out of 
gas — that is to say, we weren't completely 
dry, but the effect was much the same; we 
ran out of ammunition; and we ran out 
of weather. The loss of our close tactical 
air support because of weather was a 
real blow." The exhausted condition of 
American units and the status of their 
equipment also had much to do with it. 
It was a combination of these things, plus 
"really beautiful" positions which the 
Germans held in the second band of the 
West Wall. 64 

General Collins had gone into the West 
Wall on the theory that "if we could 
break it, then we would be just that much 
to the good; if we didn't, then we would 
be none the worse." 65 Perhaps some- 
where between these conditions lay the 
true measure of what the VII Corps had 
accomplished. The West Wall had been 
penetrated, but the breach was not secure 
enough nor the VII Corps strong enough 
for exploitation. 

The fighting had cost the Germans 
dearly in casualties. In a single week 
from 1 6 to 23 September, for example, 
the 12th Division had dropped from a 
"combat strength" of 3,800 men to 1,900, 
a position from which the division was not 

04 Interv with Collins, 21 Jan 54. 

05 Interv with Collins, 25 Jan 54. 



to recover fully through the course of the 
autumn fighting. During a similar pe- 
riod, the gth Panzer Division had lost over 
a thousand men representing two thirds of 
its original combat strength. One unit, 
the 105th Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 
had been reduced from 738 officers and 
men to 116. Only the 116th Panzer Di- 
vision in the relatively quiescent sector 
about Aachen had avoided appreciable 
losses. 66 On the other hand, the Ger- 
mans had bought with those losses a 
priceless commodity. They had bought 
time. 

As September came to an end, the VII 
Corps all along the line shifted to defense. 
Before General Collins could hope to re- 
new the attack, he had somehow to 
shuffle the front to release some unit with 
which to attack. 67 The logical place to 
shuffle was in the defensive arc about 
Aachen; for the next fight lay not to the 
east or northeast but in conjunction with 
the XIX Corps against the city which 
General Collins had by-passed in favor of 
more critical factors like dominant terrain 
and the West Wall. 

60 For detailed figures and documentation on 
enemy strengths, see Heichler, Germans Opposite 
VII Corps, pp. 84-86. 

07 During this period a squad leader in the 
1 8th Infantry, S. Sgt. Joseph E. Schaefer, earned 
the Medal of Honor. After helping thwart a 
local counterattack, Sergeant Schaefer went be- 
yond his lines to overtake a group of withdrawing 
Germans and liberate an American squad cap- 
tured earlier in the fighting. The sergeant 
personally killed between 15 to 20 Germans, 
wounded as many more, and took 10 prisoners. 



CHAPTER V 

Action on the North Wing 



First Army's third major component, 
the XIX Corps under General Corlett, 
was out of the running in the race for the 
West Wall. Immobilized four days by 
the gasoline shortage and possessing but 
two divisions, the XIX Corps at the time 
the first patrols probed the German 
border still was west of the Meuse River. 
At the closest point, Germany still was 
fifteen miles away. The XIX Corps 
nevertheless had an integral role in the 
First Army's scheme of attack — to pene- 
trate the West Wall north of Aachen and 
form the northern arm of a pincers en- 
veloping the city. 

In much of the XIX Corps sector, the 
Meuse River was strengthened by another 
obstacle, the Albert Canal. The Albert 
parallels the Meuse from Liege to the 
vicinity of Maastricht before swinging 
northwest toward Antwerp. (Map 1 
Built before World War II with military 
utility in mind, the canal is no minor 
obstacle. In many places it cuts deep 
through the soft soils of the region. Its 
banks are great concrete-reinforced preci- 
pices, sometimes as high as 160 feet from 
the water line. 

On the XIX Corps left wing, where the 
2d Armored Division was approaching the 
canal and facing almost due north, the 
region beyond the canal is marshy and 
creased by numerous small streams. Here 
dug-in Germans reacted nervously and 



apparently with some strength against 
XIX Corps patrols. On the corps right 
wing the 30th Division faced the dual 
obstacle of the Albert and the Meuse. 

Near the center of the XIX Corps zone 
lay Maastricht, capital city of the prov- 
ince of Limburg, the Dutch Panhandle. 
A road hub through which the XIX Corps 
would have to funnel its supply lines, 
Maastricht was the logical pivot on which 
to base a wheeling movement through the 
Panhandle and thence east to the German 
border. The city lies on an island about 
seven miles long and two miles wide, 
formed by a complex of man-made water- 
ways and by the Meuse (known in the 
Netherlands as the Maas). General Cor- 
lett was to clear the enemy from north of 
the Albert Canal and east of the Maas 
(Meuse) up to an operational boundary 
with the British. This boundary ran 
northeast from a point between Hasselt 
and Beeringen and passed about thirteen 
miles north of Maastricht. 

Because the XIX Corps was running 
several days behind its neighbors on both 
left and right, General Corlett saw no 
necessity for assault crossings of the Albert 
and the Meuse. At Beeringen, northwest 
of Hasselt, the 30 British Corps already 
had forged a substantial bridgehead across 
the Albert, and at Liege the VII Corps 
had thrown a bridge across the Meuse. 
Since the Germans appeared ready to de- 




H.C.B rewer, Jr. 

MAPI 



98 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




General Corlett 

why not, General Cor- 
lett reasoned, utilize the crossings already 
made? 1 

Defense oj the Albert 

As General Corlett suspected, the Ger- 
mans were planning to defend the Albert 
Canal. Also as General Corlett suspected, 
they hadn't much to do the job with. 

As the city of Maastricht marked 
roughly the center of the XIX Corps zone, 
so it represented a line of demarcation 
between contingents of two German 
armies. North of a line marked by the 
Maastricht "island," Valkenburg, and 
Stolberg, the defense was the responsibil- 
ity of the First Parachute Army, a new- 
comer in the line, most of whose troops 

1 Combat Interv with Corlett, filed with XIX 
Corps Combat Intervs for Sep 44. 



opposed the British. The other half of 
the XIX Corps zone, that area between 
Maastricht and Liege, was the responsi- 
bility of General Brandenberger's Seventh 
Army, the same headquarters whose 
troops faced the V and VII Corps. 

As the northernmost portion of General 
Brandenberger's zone, this sector came 
under General Schack's LXXXl Corps, 
that headquarters whose major responsi- 
bility was the defense of Aachen. An 
extension of the boundary between the 
XIX and VII Corps would run just north 
of Aachen and thereby split General 
Schack's zone almost in the center. The 
two divisions on the LXXXl Corps south 
wing (the gtk and 1 i6th Panzer Divisions) 
would oppose the VII Corps; the two on 
the north wing could face the XIX Corps. 3 

These two divisions comprising Genera! 
Schack's northern wing were the 4<}t h and 
275th Infantry Divisions. The strength 
and caliber of neither could have afforded 
the corps commander any genuine con- 
fidence. 

Smashed in France, the 4gth Division 
under the aegis of its commander, Gener- 
alleutnant Siegfried P. Macholz, had tried 
to reorganize earlier in Hasselt; but only 
about 1,500 men — 'mostly service troops — 
had reached the assembly area. Of the 
combat forces, hardly anything remained. 
General Macholz had left but one regi- 
mental headquarters — that of the 148th 
Infantry — and no artillery or antitank 
guns except one na-mm. Russian howit- 
zer. General Schack on 7 September had 
ordered General Macholz to put a regi- 
ment of two battalions, created around 



- For a detailed account of the German order 
of battle and operations in this sector, see Lucian 
Heichler. The Germans Opposite XIX Corps, a 
study prepared to complement this volume: copy 
in OCMH. 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



99 



the headquarters of the 148th, into the 
line along a seven-mile front on the east 
bank of the Meuse running north from an 
industrial suburb of Liege. 

By 10 September the 4gth Division had 
been reinforced by a security regiment 
composed of older men, staffed by officers 
of World War I vintage, and equipped 
with small arms and a few machine guns 
but no heavy weapons. This unit Gen- 
eral Macholz assigned to cover half his 
division front and was subsequently to 
redesignate to replace his defunct i^gth 
Infantry Regiment. Reinforcements were 
to continue to arrive in driblets so that by 
the time the battle was fully joined, Gen- 
eral Macholz in one regiment had a 
strength of 1,188 officers and men and in 
the other, 858. Although both regiments 
gained a reasonable complement of ma- 
chine guns, they had only two mortars 
and five 75-mm. antitank guns between 
them. The division still had no motor 
transport and no artillery. 3 

Sharing a common boundary with the 
4gth Division in the vicinity of Vise, 
about halfway between Liege and Maas- 
tricht, was the 275th Division under Gen- 
eralleutnant Hans Schmidt. The 275^'s 
northern boundary coincided with that 
between the First Parachute and the 
Seventh Armies, which was in turn 
roughly comparable to the boundary be- 
tween the U.S. 2d Armored and 30th 
Divisions. By 10 September, the day 
when patrols of the XIX Corps reached 

3 MS # B-792, Die Kaempfe der 49. Inf Div 
von der Maas bis an den Westwall noerdlich 
Aachen (2 Sep 44-18 Sep 44) und die Kaempfe 
um den Westwall (10 Sep 44-10 Nov 44) 
(Macholz) ; Rpt, 49th Div to LXXXI Corps, 14 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div; 
TWX (Weekly Strength Rpt as of 16 Sep 44), 
LXXXI Corps to Seventh Army, 22 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. 



the Albert Canal and the Meuse in force, 
General Schmidt had under his command 
approximately 5,000 men. Like General 
Macholz and the 4Qth Division, he had 
only one regimental headquarters, the 
g84th Infantry; but in comparison to the 
4Qth, General Schmidt was rich in artil- 
lery: he had a battery of four 105-mm. 
howitzers inherited from an SS division 
which had returned to Germany. 4 

The third German division opposing the 
XIX Corps held positions from Maas- 
tricht along the Albert Canal to the 
vicinity of Hasselt. This was the 1 j6t h 
Infantry Division under the banner of the 
First Parachute Army. 

The presence of the First Parachute 
Army in the line west of Maastricht was 
an exemplification of the kind of eleventh- 
hour improvisation to which the Germans 
had been forced by several factors: the 
haphazard nature of their retreat, the 
lengthening of their defensive front as 
they fell back on Germany and the Nether- 
lands, and the virtual isolation of an army, 
the Fifteenth, when the British had cap- 
tured Antwerp. Pinned against the 
Channel coast by the British coup de 
main, the Fifteenth Army had to employ 
all its resources in escaping across the 
Schelde estuary and in holding banks of 
the estuary in order to deny the Allies 
access to Antwerp from the sea. 5 This 
had left between the Fifteenth Army and 
the Seventh Army's westernmost position 
near Maastricht a vacuum of critical 
proportions, a gap along the Albert Canal 
of almost sixty miles. The "door to 
northwestern Germany stood open." 8 



4 MS # B-372 (Schmidt). 

5 See below, Chs. VI and IX. 

6 OKW/WFSt KTB, Ausarbeitung, der Westen 
1.IV.-16.XII. 44, MS # B-034 (Schramm). 



100 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



When news of the fall of Antwerp had 
reached Berlin, the German headquarters 
OKW had acted quickly to do something 
about the great gap. Telephoning Gen- 
eraloberst Kurt Student, commander of 
German parachute troops, OKW had 
ordered him to assume command of the 
First Parachute Army, a headquarters 
which previously had controlled units only 
in training. General Student and his new 
command, OKW directed, were then to 
come under the control of Field Marshal 
Model's Army Group B and defend the 
north bank of the Albert Canal from 
Maastricht west to the vicinity of 
Antwerp. 7 

Upon inspecting the Albert Canal on 5 
September and getting an idea of the 
troops he would control, General Student 
could generate no enthusiasm for either. 
The initial organization of his new army 
he termed "an improvisation on the grand- 
est scale." 8 Although Student's army 
was to increase rapidly in strength be- 
cause his superiors considered this sector 
so important, the size of the army as the 
XIX Corps reached the Albert Canal 
left much to be desired. General Student 
had at this time but one corps head- 
quarters, borrowed from the Fifteenth 
Army, with three infantry divisions and a 
parachute division, the latter little more 
deserving of the honorific "parachute" 
than was the army as a whole. These 
four divisions General Student had ar- 
rayed in a linear defense along the Albert 
Canal with the 176th Division occupying 
the left sector between Maastricht and 



1 Entries of 3 and 4 Sep 44, OB WEST KTB 
(Text); MS # B-7I7, Zusatz zum Bericht von 
Oberst i.G. Geyer (concerning First Prcht Army) 
(Student). 

8 MS # B-717 (Student). 



Hasselt. Because of the northeasterly di- 
rection of the XIX Corps attack, the 
176th Division would be the only one of 
Student's divisions to be encountered by 
General Corlett's forces. 

Commanded by Colonel Christian Lan- 
dau, the 176th Division was one of those 
replacement training units which the Ger- 
mans had upgraded hurriedly to meet the 
crisis of the Allied march upon the home- 
land. Replacement trainees, convales- 
cents, and semi-invalids in a total strength 
of approximately 7,000 made up the 
command. Only a few of these men were 
unconditionally fit for active fighting. 
Grouped for combat into three regimental 
teams, the division had a heterogeneous 
assortment of units: several infantry bat- 
talions formed from replacement training 
units, two Luftwaffe battalions made up 
of air force personnel, an "ear battalion," 
two engineer battalions, and a reconnais- 
sance battalion made up of two bicycle 
companies. 

Whereas Colonel Landau's infantry 
was about equal to that of the neighboring 
275th and 4gth Divisions, his artillery was 
stronger. He had two so-called light bat- 
talions with 6 105-mm. howitzers and 1 
heavy battalion with 8 infantry cannon, 4 
German, 2 Czech, and 2 Russian 150-mm. 
howitzers. Possessing 1 75-mm. gun, 20 
20-mm. guns, and 5 88's, Colonel Landau 
also was better off than his neighbors in 
the antiaircraft and antitank departments. 
Like the other divisions, he had only 
limited signal equipment, almost no serv- 
ices, and no motor transport. 9 

When first committed, Colonel Landau 
had been impelled to put one battalion 



9 Rpt on Trip to 176th Inf Div, 1st Lt Klaus 
Liebrecht to Model, 7 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Op.-Befehle; MS # B-362, 176. Inf Div (Landau). 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



101 



forward of his main line on the opposite 
side of the Albert Canal in order to fulfill 
an order from Hitler to defend Fort Eben 
Emael, the most elaborate fort in what 
had once been a complex Belgian defensive 
system. Though conforming, General 
Student had protested the disposition be- 
cause of numerous factors, not the least 
of which were that the main entrance to 
the fort was on the American side and 
that the firing embrasures were clogged 
with wrecked Belgian cannon from 1940 
when German airborne troops had 
swooped down on the fort. Not until 
early on 10 September, a step ahead 
of the 30th U.S. Division, did Field 
Marshal Model's concurrence in Student's 
view permit the battalion of the ij6th 
Division to abandon Eben Emael and 
retire to the other side of the Albert. 10 

From the Albert to the Border 

While the two German armies thus 
were concocting a defense on their inner 
wings, the American commander, General 
Corlett, was directing the maneuvers by 
which he hoped to turn the German 
flanks without the necessity of forcing 
bridgeheads across the Albert and the 
Meuse. Contacting the 30 British Corps 
and the VII Corps, he secured permission 
to utilize their bridges on either of his 
flanks at Beeringen and at Liege. 
Though Maj. Gen. Leland S. Hobbs, 



10 TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST (relaying and 
endorsing Msg, Student to A Gp B), 1400, 9 Sep 
44, and Order, A Gp B to First Prcht Army, 2105, 
9 Sep 44, both in A Gp B KTB, Operations- 
befehle; MS # B-372, Kaempfe [der ay 5. Inf 
Div~\ in Nordfrankreich (Schmidt) ; and Noon 
Sitrep, A Gp B, 1345, 10 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Letzte Meldung. 



commander of the 30th Division, wanted 
to put his entire division across the VII 
Corps bridge at Liege, General Corlett de- 
murred. Tying up the bridge the length 
of time required to move an entire division 
he deemed an undue imposition on the 
VII Corps. Instead, Corlett ordered the 
113th Cavalry Group (Col. William S. 
Biddle) to cross the Meuse at Liege and 
drive northward behind the dual obstacle 
of the canal and the river. As soon as 
the cavalry had cleared a portion of the 
east bank within the XIX Corps zone, 
the 30th Division then could cross unop- 
posed in its own sector. The 2d Armored 
Division was to execute a similar maneu- 
ver with its own reconnaissance battalion 
at Beeringen. 11 

Delayed somewhat by mines, demol- 
ished bridges, and occasional defended 
roadblocks, Colonel Biddle's cavalry never- 
theless made good progress. By late 
afternoon of 1 1 September, the cavalry 
had pushed north from Liege through all 
resistance General Macholz' feeble 4gth 
Division could offer and was engaging a 
part of General Schmidt's 275th Division 
near Vise, well within the XIX Corps 
zone. In the meantime, reconnaissance 
patrols sent out by the 30th Division's 
119th Infantry (Col. Edwin M. Suther- 
land) had discovered that a narrow strip 
of land between the canal and the Meuse 
was undefended. By the time the cavalry 
arrived opposite this point, Colonel Suth- 
erland already had a footbridge across the 
canal and was ready with assault boats to 
cross the river. Disturbed only by an 
occasional round of artillery fire, the 1 1 9th 
Infantry reached the far bank and fanned 
out to the east and northeast. Before 



11 113th Cav Gp and 2d Armd AARs, Sep 44. 



102 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



daylight on 1 2 September, the 1 1 7th In- 
fantry (Col. Walter M. Johnson) followed 
suit. 12 

While these crossings were in progress, 
the 30th Division's third regiment, the 
1 20th Infantry, was holding the west bank 
of the canal farther north near the point 
where the canal swings northwest away 
from the Meuse. Commanded by Col. 
Hammond D. Birks, this was the regiment 
which on the day before (10 September) 
had occupied Fort Eben Emael. 

Not content to sit idly while waiting for 
the other two regiments on the east bank 
to come abreast, Colonel Birks turned his 
attention to a lock on the canal near Fort 
Eben Emael. So long as the Germans 
held this lock, Colonel Birks believed, they 
might demolish it at any time to inundate 
some of the Dutch lowlands to the north 
and northwest. 

Getting to the lock, Colonel Birks soon 
discovered, posed quite a problem. Lo- 
cated at the southeastern tip of the Maas- 
tricht island, the lock could be reached 
only from the island or from the narrow 
strip of flat terrain between the canal and 
the Meuse. At first glance, Colonel Birks 
and his engineer advisers could see no 
hope of crossing the canal at any point 



12 For operations of the 113th Cavalry Group 
and the 30th Division, see official records of the 
group, division, and attached units. An un- 
official history of the 30th Division by Robert L. 
Hewitt, entitled Workhorse of the Western Front 
(Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1946), is 
comprehensive and apparently authoritative. 
Nicknamed "Old Hickory" in recognition of its 
Tennessee-Carolinas National Guard origin, the 
30th Division entered combat on 10 June. At 
Mortain, in Normandy, the division held a flank 
of the American breakout at Avranches against 
the major German panzer counterattack to cut 
off Hodges' and Patton's armored spearheads. 
General Bradley, in A Soldier's Story, page 375, 
calls the 30th the "Rock of Mortain." 



close to the lock; for the concrete-faced 
west bank of the canal at this point is too 
high and steep for launching assault boats 
in any orthodox manner. The closest 
place where assault boats might be 
launched was opposite the village of 
Lanaye, a mile south of the lock, but the 
route from Lanaye to the objective was 
cruelly exposed to German fire from the 
east bank of the Meuse. 

The problem of how to get to the lock 
remained until a local Belgian electrical 
engineer suggested a solution. Two tun- 
nels, he pointed out, leading from deep in 
the bowels of Fort Eben Emael, emerge 
along the steep west bank of the canal a 
short distance from the lock. Large 
enough to permit passage of rubber assault 
boats, the upper tunnel emerges about 
halfway up the bank. More a drainage 
pipe than a passageway and so small a 
man would have to crawl to negotiate it, 
the lower tunnel opens directly below the 
upper tunnel right at the water line; 

While engineers carried assault boats 
through the upper tunnel, a squad of 
infantry slithered 500 yards through the 
lower to gain the canal. When the en- 
gineers overhead lowered the rubber boats 
down the concrete face of the west bank, 
the infantry clambered in and quickly 
paddled across. Taking a small German 
party guarding the lock by surprise, the 
infantry made short work of the wires to 
the demolitions. 

On the enemy side of the canal and the 
river, the outcome of fighting on 1 1 
September had emphasized the patent im- 
possibility of the 4gth and 275th Divisions' 
holding even for a reasonable length of 
time along the east bank of the Meuse. 
As early as the day before, when the 
1 1 3th Cavalry Group first had crossed 
the Liege bridge, the German generals 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



103 



had recognized that fact. 13 Yet as night 
came on 1 1 September their corps com- 
mander, General Schack, reiterated their 
mission of preventing an attack on the 
West Wall before the fortifications could 
be readied. Form a new line, General 
Schack directed, facing south and running 
generally along the Dutch-Belgian border 
eastward from the Meuse in the vicinity 
of Lanaye. The 275th Division was to 
stick close to the river while the 4gth 
Division held the line farther east and 
maintained contact with the 11 6th Panzer 
Division, which was falling back on 
Aachen before the VII U.S. Corps. "The 
fight for time," General Schack warned, 
"is of paramount importance!" 14 

As General Schack must have realized, 
it would take more than platitudes to 
halt the onrush of American troops. On 
12 September he appealed unsuccessfully 
to the Seventh Army commander, General 
Brandenberger, in hope of shortening his 
front by adjustment of the boundary with 
the First Parachute Army}" 

On the American side, the 117th and 
1 1 gth Infantry Regiments were handi- 
capped through most of 12 September 
because lack of treadway bridges across 
the Albert and the Meuse prevented at- 
tached tank companies from crossing, but 
they continued to push steadily north and 
northeast. Driving northeast on the right 
flank of the infantry, Colonel Biddle's 
cavalry group also advanced steadily and 

13 Rad, 4gth Div to LXXXI Corps, 1440, 10 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der 
Div; MS # B-372 (Schmidt). 

14 Order, LXXXI Corps to 275th and 49th 
Divs, 2210 and 2215, 11 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Kampfverlauf ; Daily Sitrep, LXXXI Corps 
to Seventh Army, 2300, 11 Sep 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

1 " Tel Convs, Seventh Army with LXXXI 
Corps, 1500 and 1600, 12 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



maintained contact with the 1st Division 
of the VII Corps. The 30th Division and 
the cavalry were shoving the Germans 
back as though forcing open a giant door 
hinged on Maastricht. In little more than 
two days after the cavalry had wedged a 
foot in the door near Liege, the gap was 
widening. 

By nightfall of 12 September the infan- 
try troops had gained as much as five 
miles to bring them abreast of Colonel 
Birks' 1 20th Infantry, which by this time 
had crossed the canal to take the village 
of Lanaye. In the process, the Americans 
hardly were aware that the Germans had 
attempted a new line along the Dutch- 
Belgian border. By nightfall they were 
almost a mile inside the Netherlands. 
Maastricht lay but four miles away. 

The Germans made one feeble counter- 
attack during the day, not for a tactical 
objective but in an attempt to rescue the 
driver and aide-de-camp of the 275th 
Division commander, General Schmidt, 
and a dispatch case containing important 
papers. Traveling with his aide in a 
command car, General Schmidt earlier in 
the day had narrowly escaped capture 
when he came suddenly upon an Ameri- 
can patrol. As the Americans opened 
fire, they killed both Schmidt's driver and 
his aide and wounded the general in the 
left hip. Unaware that his companions 
were dead, General Schmidt hobbled and 
crawled away from the scene and back to 
his own lines, whereupon he organized a 
counterattack in an attempt, he said, "to 
rescue my comrades." The German gen- 
eral might better have spared the effort. 
Both his aide and his driver were corpses 
by this time, and at 30th Division head- 
quarters American officers already were 
poring over the papers from the dispatch 
case. 1 st Lt. Elwood G. Daddow had 



104 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Portion of Fort Eben Em a el 



spotted the case and dashed out under 
fire to get it. 16 

Intelligence officers of the 30th Division 
were elated to discover among the Ger- 
man papers documents indicating the 
strength and missions of many units under 
the Seventh Army and a situation map 
spotting the command posts of the 
Seventh Army, two corps, and twelve di- 
visions. In light of the fluidity of German 
units at the time, the documents hardly 
could have been as valuable as either the 
Germans or the Americans indicated; 



lK In MS # B-37a, General Schmidt has pro- 
vided a lucid if somewhat mock heroic account 
of this action. Records of American units also 
tell of it. 



nevertheless, the incident had provided a 
cloak-and-dagger element often lacking in 
plodding infantry operations. 

After a third day of fighting the 49th 
and Divisions again had no alterna- 

tive but to fall back and try to establish 
another line. Urging that the 275th Di- 
vision do everything possible to prevent a 
crossing onto the Maastricht island, Gen- 
eral Schack authorized a withdrawal of 
about three miles. 17 Schack conceivably 
might have wished to withdraw the two 
divisions all the way back to the West 
Wall before the Americans could wipe 
them out completely; but Army Croup B 

11 Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs, 2230, is 
Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div, 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



105 




The Albert Canal., as seen from a machine gun emplacement in Fort Eben Emael. 
(Captured film.) 



thought otherwise. During the night of 
12 September Field Marshal Model or- 
dered specifically that the LXXXI Corps 
cling to the Maas River between Vise and 
Maastricht. Withdrawal from that front 
would require his special authorization, 
he said. 18 

Model probably did not know that Vise 
already had fallen at least twelve hours 
before and that his order was no longer 
relevant. Better informed about the true 
situation, General Schack paid scant at- 

ia Rad, Seventk Army to LXXXI Corps (re- 
laying order, A Gp B), 0300, 13 Sep 44, I.XXXI 
Carps KTB, Befehle: Heeresgruppe, Arniee, vsa>. 



tendon to the order. The LXXXI Corps 
commander told the 275th Division to fall 
back on the Maastricht-Aachen highway 
but to hold a small sector alongside the 
Maas in order to keep U.S. forces away 
from Maastricht long enough to permit 
the garrison of the Maastricht island to 
withdraw eastward over the city's bridges. 

For his part, the ailing 2 75 th Division 
commander, General Schmidt, had no 
faith in this plan. He apparently wanted 
to abandon Maastricht and fall back 
another four or five miles behind a minor 
but deep-cut stream, the Geul River. In 
the first place, he believed the Americans 



106 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



could break any line he might form other 
than one behind a difficult obstacle. In 
the second place, he saw no reason for 
trying to save the Maastricht bridges, 
because that part of the First Parachute 
Army's ij6th Division on the Maastricht 
island surely would not withdraw east- 
ward into another division's sector but 
northward into the division's own rear 

1 Q 

areas. 

Only one more day was necessary to 
prove General Schmidt right on both 
scores. Indeed, he had much less chance 
than before to hold the line; for during 
the night attached tanks and organic 
artillery had crossed the Meuse to join the 
30th Division's infantry. The two assault 
regiments swept forward rapidly on 13 
September. The commander of the 
ij6th Division's garrison of Maastricht 
and the island became convinced that the 
island positions were untenable. In with- 
drawing, the garrison turned, as General 
Schmidt had predicted, not to the east but 
to the north. 

General Schmidt was not the first to 
discover that this American infantry-tank- 
artillery team was a difficult thing to stop. 
In the long march across northern France 
and Belgium, General Hobbs's troops and 
those of the other divisions had become 
masters of the art of pursuit warfare. 
They had attained an almost reflexive 
knowledge of how to fight this kind of 
war. The infantry-tank-artillery teams 
were close-knit families, into which had 
been adopted the fighter-bomber. At the 
first word to advance, the infantry would 
clamber to accustomed perches upon its 
attached tanks. Upon encountering op- 
position, the infantry would dismount 
and engage the enemy while forward ob- 



19 MS # B-372 (Schmidt). 



servers for the artillery would bring down 
fire in a matter of minutes. Atop the 
tanks and trucks were brilliant fluorescent 
panels to serve as identification for the 
pilots of fighter-bombers flying column 
cover. Although weather often deterred 
air activity during these latter days of the 
pursuit, the pilots still were able to make 
the enemy's daytime movements a risky 
business. 

Before dark on 13 September a battal- 
ion of the 1 1 7th Infantry entered Wijk, 
Maastricht's sprawling suburb lying east 
of the Maas, but discovered that the 
Germans had demolished the bridges be- 
tween Wijk and the city on the island. 
Crossing the river in assault boats the 
next day ( 1 4 September ) , the men found 
the city empty of the enemy except for 
three Germans burning papers in the local 
Gestapo headquarters. 

In the meantime, the other battalions of 
Colonel Johnson's regiment and those of 
the 1 1 gth Infantry were pushing north- 
east to gain the line of the Geul River. 
Not without some trepidation did the two 
regiments approach the Geul, for the val- 
ley of this little tributary of the Maas is a 
marked feature in a region where hills fuse 
with lowlands. From a captured docu- 
ment, XIX Corps intelligence had deter- 
mined that the Germans planned to 
defend the line of the Geul as a switch 
position between Aachen and Maastricht, 
thereby tying in the West Wall at Aachen 
with the First Parachute Armys line along 
the Albert and Meuse-Escaut Canals, 20 
in what had been designated as the West 
Stellung. 

20 See Defensive Line Between Maastricht and 
Aachen, notes on a captured document to be 
found in G-2 Sec, XIX Corps AAR, Sep 44; also 
LXXXI Corps Order for Preparation to Occupy 
West Wall, 10 Sep 44, V Corps G-2 file, 14 
Sep 44. 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



107 



The Germans did intend to defend the 
Geul, but the American advances on 13 
September into Wijk and farther east along 
the boundary between the 4gth and 275th 
Divisions near the town of Gulpen came 
close to compromising the position before 
it could be established. Registering par- 
ticular concern about the gap at Gulpen, 
Field Marshal Model at Army Group B 
directed the LXXXI Corps to commit all 
available forces to restore a continuous 
front there. Though General Schack 
shifted a straggler battalion, a machine 
gun company, and two engineer com- 
panies of the 4gth Division into the gap, 
this was not enough. 21 

Early on 14 September a battalion of 
the 1 1 9th Infantry crossed the Geul at a 
ford a mile north of Gulpen without op- 
position. At the same time another bat- 
talion of the 1 1 9th Infantry crossed at 
Valkenburg, about seven miles east of 
Maastricht. Choice of the Valkenburg 
site for a crossing was unfortunate be- 
cause of the proximity of the 275th Di- 
vision's artillery. With observation from 
atop a water tower, General Schmidt's 
lone original battery of 105-mm. howit- 
zers plus three other newly attached 
batteries could readily adjust their fire 
on the crossing. 22 Though the Germans 
claimed to have reoccupied Valkenburg 
itself, the 1 1 9th Infantry still maintained 
a foothold beyond the Geul. 

With Maastricht captured and bridge- 
heads having apparently compromised the 
Geul switch position, General Hobbs now 
was ready to wheel to the east in order to 

21 Tel Convs, Seventh Army with LXXXI Corps 
(relaying order, Model to Seventh Army), 2050, 
13 Sep 44 and LXXXI Corps with 275th Div, 
2345, 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf. 

22 MS # B-373, Kaempfe in Rheinland der 
75. Infanterie-Division (Schmidt). 



assault the West Wall north of Aachen. 
The fact that he failed to do so immedi- 
ately, the German commanders opposite 
him could attribute only to the possibility 
that he was busy regrouping and moving 
up reinforcements and supplies. 23 

Although General Hobbs did use the 
opportunity to move Colonel Birks' 120th 
Infantry forward, this was not his real 
reason for a pause. General Hobbs was, 
in reality, perturbed by the fact that any 
move to the east would leave his left flank 
dangling. On his right flank he had 
adequate protection from a screen raised 
by the 1 1 3th Cavalry Group along an 
eight-mile front in the direction of the VII 
Corps near Aachen; but on his left flank 
the 2d Armored Division still was strain- 
ing to come abreast through the marshy 
flatlands west and northwest of Maas- 
tricht. General Hobbs told his regiments 
to put in bridges across the Geul and 
strengthen the bridgeheads, but the 30th 
Division would not drive eastward alone. 

More dependent upon bridges than an 
infantry division, the 2d Armored Division 
under Maj. Gen. Ernest N. Harmon had 
been a day later than the 30th Division in 
beginning to advance beyond the Albert 
Canal. 24 Crossing the British bridge at 

23 MSS # B-372 (Schmidt) and # B-792 
(Macholz) . 

24 General Harmon formally assumed command 
on 12 September when General Brooks left in 
anticipation of assuming command of the V Corps 
(see above, Ch. III). The 2d Armored (Hell 
on Wheels) Division had the same organization 
as the 3d Armored Division of the VII Corps 
(see above, Ch. IV). Having campaigned pre- 
viously in North Africa and Sicily, the division 
entered combat in Normandy on 10 June. Its 
after action reports for September are particu- 
larly detailed. The division has published a 
sketchy account of its operations, entitled, A 
History of the Second United States Armored 
Division, E. A. Trahan, ed. (Atlanta, Ga. : A. 
Love, 1947). 



108 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Beeringen at first light on 1 1 September, 
General Harmon's reconnaissance battal- 
ion had driven southeast to re-enter the 
XIX Corps zone before dark at a point 
north of Hasselt. A counterattack during 
the night by contingents of Colonel 
Landau's ij6th Division and occasionally 
stanch resistance the next day so delayed 
the battalion in clearing a stretch of the 
north bank of the Albert Canal that 
supporting engineers did not get a bridge 
completed until midnight of 12 Septem- 
ber. Thereupon, CCA under Col. John 
H. Collier rumbled across, though not 
until daylight of 13 September would the 
left hook of General Corlett's double en- 
velopment of the Albert Canal line really 
begin to roll. 

With the reconnaissance battalion pro- 
tecting the left flank, Colonel Collier's CCA 
drove eastward on 13 September toward 
the Maas. Resistance took the form of 
numerous roadblocks, reinforced by mines 
and occasional antitank guns and de- 
fended by tenacious knots of infantry. 
Though the marshy terrain forced the 
armor to stick to the roads and limited 
maneuver against the roadblocks, the 
enemy's ij6th Division was no more equal 
to holding an unyielding line than were 
the two divisions opposite the XIX Corps' 
other wing. On both. 12 and 13 Septem- 
ber, the enemy commander, Colonel 
Landau, had to fall back several miles and 
try to form a new line. Governed by the 
only main road even approximating the 
desired direction of advance, Colonel Col- 
lier's CCA had to take a somewhat 
circuitous route northeast toward the 
town of Asch, thence east and southeast 
to the Maastricht Canal north of Maas- 
tricht. Even so, the armor took only two 
days to cover the fifteen miles. 

Before the 2d Armored Division could 



come fully abreast of the 30th Division, 
somebody had to clear the Maastricht 
island. General Harmon had intended 
that CCB (Brig. Gen. Isaac D. White) 
cross the Albert south of Maastricht, 
sweep the island, then pass through Maas- 
tricht and drive northeast along the east 
bank of the Juliana Canal, which 
parallels the Maas north of Maastricht. 
That would put CCB alongside the left 
flank of the 30th Division in a drive 
aimed at Sittard, a city that was to serve 
as a northern anchor when the assault 
turned eastward against the West Wall. 
But on 14 September a Bailey bridge 
General White's engineers were construct- 
ing across the Albert Canal to the 
Maastricht island buckled just before 
completion. CCB's attack had to wait 
another day. 

Actually, little need remained for clear- 
ing the Maastricht island. The onrush 
of CCA driving eastward toward the 
Maastricht Canal and the entrance of a 
battalion of the 30th Division into Wijk, 
the eastern suburb of Maastricht, had 
convinced the 176th Division commander, 
Colonel Landau, that any attempt to 
defend the island or the city could end 
only in destruction of the forces involved. 
Ordering all his units during the night of 
13 September to fall back behind the 
Maastricht Canal north of Maastricht, 
Colonel Landau abandoned both the 
island and the city. 

In approving this withdrawal, Field 
Marshal Model at Army Group B di- 
rected an adjustment of the boundary 
between the First Parachute Army and 
the Seventh Army. Heretofore, the First 
Parachute Army's ij6th Division had 
operated only west of the Maas; now the 
division would be responsible for a sector 
on the east bank extending northeastward 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



109 



toward Sittard. The boundary would 
run from the vicinity of Meerssen, five 
miles northeast of Maastricht, northeast- 
ward in the direction of Geilenkirchen, 
a German border town twelve miles north 
of Aachen. The new 1 enemy boundary 
would be roughly identical to that be- 
tween the 2d Armored and 30th Di- 
visions. 25 

Rather than sit idly on the west bank 
of the Maastricht Canal, Colonel Collier's 
CCA late on 14 September jumped the 
canal onto the Maastricht island, only a 
step behind Colonel Landau's withdraw- 
ing Germans. By the next day, when 
General White's CCB at last bridged the 
Albert south of Maastricht, Colonel Col- 
lier's combat command already had 
cleared all stragglers from the island. 
General White was free to move immedi- 
ately east of the Maas and start the drive 
on Sittard. By nightfall of 15 September 
a task force of CCB had secured a tiny 
bridgehead under fire across the Geul 
northwest of Meerssen. 

Now that the corps armor was coming 
abreast of the 30th Division, General 
Hobbs on 16 September renewed his at- 
tack eastward to reach the West Wall 
north of Aachen, though the promise of a 
protected north flank for the infantry still 
needed two days for fulfillment. Moving 
up assault guns, the ij6th Division de- 
livered such intensive shellfire on CCB's 
little bridgehead near Meerssen that it 
took the armor all of 16 September to fill 
out the bridgehead. Although CAA util- 
ized the 1 1 9th Infantry's bridge over the 
Geul at Valkenburg, Colonel Collier's 
combat command came under such heavy 
interdictory fires in the Valkenburg defile 
that it too needed an entire day to cross 

25 Noon Sitrep, A Gp B, 1530, 14 Sep 44, A 
Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. 



the river. On 17 September the armor 
gradually expanded its two bridgeheads, 
each to a depth of about two miles, but 
not so much through sheer weight as 
through the enemy's fear of envelopment. 
Probings by the 2d Armored Division's 
reconnaissance battalion across the Maas- 
tricht Canal north of Maastricht had 
convinced Colonel Landau, the 176th Di- 
vision commander, that the Americans 
intended to drive from that direction to 
link with their forces from the Geul 
bridgeheads in a pincers movement. To 
escape envelopment, Colonel Landau be- 
gan to withdraw in the direction of 
Sittard. 26 

On 18 September both CCA and CCB 
broke loose to cover the remaining six 
miles to Sittard. That set telephones to 
ringing high up the German chain of 
command. It was of "decisive impor- 
tance," Field Marshal Model informed 
the First Parachute Army's General Stu- 
dent, that his forces hold the line at 
Sittard and keep the' Americans out of the 
West Wall. OB WEST already had 
made available one infantry division (the 
12th), which was even then restoring the 
line against the VII U.S. Corps in the 
Stolberg Corridor southeast of Aachen; in 
a matter of days now General Branden- 
berger's Seventh Army was to get another 
fresh division, the 183d Volks Grenadier 
Division, which General Brandenberger 
was to commit between Sittard and 
Aachen. Relief was on the way, the 
Army Group B commander said, in effect; 
hold out until then ! 27 

General Student might have reacted 
with more vigor to Model's appeal had he 

20 Mng Sitrep, A Gp B, 0730, 17 Sep 44, A Gp 
B KTB, Letzte Meldung; Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 
0400, 18 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

27 Order, A Gp B to First Prcht Army, 12230, 
18 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB Operattonsbefehle. 



110 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



not at this time had his hands full with as 
grave a threat as the Western Front had 
known since the Allies first neared the 
German border. Just the day before, 
deep in the rear areas of the First Para- 
chute Army within the Netherlands, 
thousands of Allied parachutes had blos- 
somed in an airborne operation awe- 
inspiring in scope. 28 General Student 
nevertheless spared a small Kampfgruppe 
from the 10th SS Panzer Division, which 
had been refitting far behind the lines, to 
go to Sittard and counterattack on 19 
September. 20 

As all concerned soon discovered, this 
Kampfgruppe might have served the Ger- 
man cause better had Student retained it 
to fight the Allied parachutists. The 
counterattack delayed the 2d Armored 
Division's CCB a day, but CCA con- 
tinued to push northeastward toward 
Geilenkirchen to enter that portion of 
Germany which projects into Holland in 
the form of a cat's head and forequarters. 
The West Wall lay but a few miles to the 
east. The enemy commander, Colonel 
Landau, expected total disaster to over- 
take his division at any moment. 30 

In the meantime, General Hobb's 30th 
Division on the right wing of the XIX 
Corps had broken out of the Geul bridge- 
heads more readily than had the armor, 
despite the fact that the enemy had 
received several infantry battalions as re- 
inforcements. By last light on 16 Sep- 
tember the infantry columns and their 
supporting tanks and tank destroyers 
obviously were ready to roll across a 

28 See below, Ch. VI. 

28 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0230, 19 Sep 44, A Gp 
B KTB Tagesmeldungen; Mng Sitrep, A Gp B, 
0900, 19 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. 

30 Tel Conv, LXXXI Corps with 176th Inf 
Div, 2i5o, 19 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampjverlauf. 



remaining eight or nine miles to the 
German border. Indeed, at the town of 
Simpelveld, some companies of the 120th 
Infantry already were no more than three 
miles from the border. Here Field Mar- 
shal Model directed a futile counterattack 
by an SS assault gun battalion that 
represented Army Group B's only remain- 
ing reserve for commitment in this sector. 

All through the evening of 16 Septem- 
ber, General Schmidt kept the LXXXI 
Corps switchboard busy with appeals to 
permit his 275th Division to withdraw to 
a new line near the border. The Ameri- 
can thrust to Simpelveld had sliced 
through on the boundary between his 
division and that of General Macholz' 
4gth Division. Most of his units were 
north of that penetration, some still as far 
west as the Geul River near Meerssen, 
and all were in imminent danger of being 
taken from the rear should the Americans 
turn north from Simpelveld. Yet neither 
the LXXXI Corps commander, General 
Schack, nor the Seventh Army Chief of 
Staff, Col. Rudolf-Christoph Freiherr von 
Gersdorff, had any ear for General 
Schmidt's impassioned pleas. Except for 
a few scattered replacement units, the 
West Wall from Aachen northward, they 
knew, lay naked. No matter what hap- 
pened, Generals Schmidt and Macholz 
must hold as far west of the West Wall as 
possible until the promised 183d Volks 
Grenadier Division could arrive. 31 



31 Tel Convs, Seventh Army with LXXXI 
Corps, 19 10 and 2400, 16 Sep 44, and 01 15, 17 
Sep 44, Schack with G-3 LXXXI Corps, 2300, 
16 Sep 44, and LXXXI Corps with 275th Div, 
0035 and 0110, 17 Sep 44, all in LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Kampfverlauf; Order, LXXXI Corps to all 
divs, 2000, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Befehle an Div; Daily Sitrep, LXXXI Corps to 
Seventh Army, 2140, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Tagesmeldungen; MS # B-373 (Schmidt). 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



111 



Just as the 12th Division's race into the 
Stolberg Corridor to prevent a break- 
through southeast of Aachen must have 
left more than one German commander's 
hair on end, so the arrival of the 183d 
Volks Grenadier Division in the West Wall 
north of Aachen was a matter of split- 
second timing. Under the command of 
Generalleutnant Wolfgang Lange, the 
183d Division had been refitted and re- 
habilitated in Austria. Like the 12th Di- 
vision, the 183d was at full strength and 
completely equipped, except for its assault 
gun battalion. Its troops, however, were 
largely Austrian, inadequately trained, and 
inexperienced. 32 

On 17 September the inexorable push 
of General Hobbs's 30th Division con- 
tinued. On the division's left wing, the 
1 1 gth Infantry tore right through the 
middle of the 275th Division to capture 
Heerlen, the last Dutch town of appreci- 
able size in this sector. The 120th In- 
fantry on the right actually crossed the 
German border east of Simpelveld but at 
a point where the West Wall lay more 
than a mile behind the border. The 
enemy still had time to get the 183d 
Division into the pillboxes. 

As was the American custom, the 
Germans noted, the U.S. troops during 
the night of 17 September "called off the 
war at midnight." As the front settled 
down, train upon train bearing arms and 
men of the 183d Volks Grenadier Division 
rolled into blacked-out railheads along the 
Roer River. The entire division would 
require two more nights to arrive, but a 
strong vanguard was soon en route toward 
assembly areas near the front. 33 

32 MS # B-753, Die Kaempfe der 183. Volks- 
grenadier-Division im Raume Geilenkirchen von 
September 1944 bis Ende Januar 1945 (Lange). 

33 Ibid. 



Having won a third lap of the race for 
the West Wall, the Germans were in no 
haste to substitute the 183d Division for 
those replacement units already in the 
pillboxes and for the withdrawing sur- 
vivors of the 4gth and 275th Divisions. 
Model instead withheld the fresh division 
close behind the pillboxes as a tactical 
reserve. 34 

Unaware that a frenzied race for the 
West Wall had been taking place, the 
Americans in the meantime had been 
pushing steadily forward. On 18 Sep- 
tember General Hobbs committed the 
1 1 7th Infantry to extend his left flank in 
the direction of the 2d Armored Division; 
by nightfall the 119th Infantry in the 
center of the 30th Division had reached 
positions overlooking the little Wurm 
River and the forward reaches of the West 
Wall. The 2d Armored Division, in turn, 
pushed into Gangelt on the corps north 
flank on 19 September. In the process 
the armor shoved what was left of Colonel 
Landau's 176th Division back to the north 
and northeast and severed all contact 
between the 176th Division and General 
Schmidt's 275th. 35 

To Field Marshal Model the gap be- 
tween the two armies appeared particu- 
larly dangerous, for it constituted an open 
route into Germany northwest of the West 
Wall strongpoint of Geilenkirchen by 
which the West Wall might be pierced in 
a sector where Model had virtually no 
troops at all. Drawing a new boundary 
between the First Parachute and Seventh 
Armies, Model gave part of the old 176th 
Division sector to the Seventh Army and 



34 Order, A Gp B to Seventh Army, 2230, 18 
Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 

35 Tel Conv, Seventh Army with LXXXI Corps, 
1 1 15, 19 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf. 



112 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



told General Lange to counterattack with 
a Kampfgruppe of his 183d Volks Gren- 
adier Division, re-establish contact be- 
tween the 176th and 275th Divisions, and 
subsequently relieve the 2 J 5th Division 
and northern elements of the 4Qth Divi- 
sion. "I expect," said the Army Group B 
commander, not without some causticity, 
"that once [the] 183d Volks Grenadier 
Division is committed, the withdrawal of 
the army's right wing will at last be 
brought to a halt." 36 

Unfortunately for the Germans, Field 
Marshal Model's information about the 
front was running several hours behind 
reality. In most of the sectors where he 
intended the 183d Division to take over, 
either the 2d Armored or the 30th Division 
already had arrived. The 2d Armored 
Division, for example, reached the village 
of Teveren, a stone's throw from Geilen- 
kirchen. In addition, the LXXXI Corps 
commander, General Schack, ran into dif- 
ficulties at every turn in trying to assemble 
forces and arrange proper support for 
the 183d Division. Delay after delay 
finally ended in ineffective improvisation. 
Though a Kampfgruppe eventually did 
attack into the north flank of the 2d 
Armored Division, it accomplished nothing 
other than to re-establish contact between 
the two German armies. 

When this maneuver failed, the German 
commanders acted on the assumption that 
an immediate assault against the West 
Wall was inevitable. Relieving those 
troops of the 183d Division that were 
west of the West Wall with heterogeneous 
forces, they thrust the entire division into 

36 Ibid.; Orders, Seventh Army to LXXXI 
Corps (relaying A Gp B orders intended for 
183d VG Div) , 1050 and 1220, 19 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: Heeresgruppe, 
Armee, usw. 



the pillboxes. The division's responsibil- 
ity extended from Geilenkirchen south to 
the area opposite Rimburg. From here 
the remains of the 4gth Division, holding 
a small bridgehead at the Dutch town of 
Kerkrade, tied in with the 11 6th Panzer 
Division north of Aachen. The remnants 
of the 275th Division were collected in 
the West Wall east of Geilenkirchen. 37 

An immediate assault was the American 
intention. As early as 18 September Gen- 
eral Corlett alerted both the 2d Armored 
and 30th Divisions to prepare to hit the 
West Wall. The next day he ordered an 
attack on the following day, 20 Septem- 
ber. The XIX Corps was to breach the 
West Wall, seize crossings over the Roer 
River nine miles beyond, and assist the VII 
Corps in encircling Aachen. 38 

Delay in the Assault 

This was the intention. The event was 
different because of a factor beyond Gen- 
eral Corlett's control. 

This factor had seen its beginning dur- 
ing the first days of September when 
General Bradley had transferred one of 
Corlett's divisions to the Third Army. 
The loss added to Corlett's difficulty in 
solving the problem of an exposed left 
flank. Before the transfer, Field Marshal 
Montgomery had announced plans for 
commitment of part of his 2 1 Army Group 
close alongside the left flank of the First 
Army, and thus of the XIX Corps. Al- 
though Montgomery had stipulated that 
the main weight of the British drive was 
to be directed against the Lower Rhine 



37 For fuller details and documentation on this 
period, see Heichler, Germans Opposite XIX 
Corps, pp. 54-63. 

38 XIX Corps FO 26, 19 Sep, XIX Corps 
G— 3 file, 19 Sep 44. 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



113 



between Wesel and Arnhem, he had stated 
that he intended to threaten frontally the 
western face of the Ruhr between Duessel- 
dorf and Duisberg. Writing later, Gen- 
eral Bradley maintained that Montgomery 
had told him he planned "to advance 
straight against the Ruhr as a feint, but 
after reaching the vicinity of the Rhine 
was then going to throw a force around 
to the north." 39 In either event, a feint 
against the Ruhr would have involved a 
British advance close alongside the First 
Army's left flank. 

The trouble began when the threat 
against the face of the Ruhr did not 
develop. Instead, the Second British 
Army had begun to drive almost due 
north into the Netherlands at a point 
south of Eindhoven. Then Field Marshal 
Montgomery had suggested and General 
Eisenhower had authorized a special op- 
eration known as Market-Garden to be 
launched in the Netherlands on 17 Sep- 
tember to extend the Second Army's axis 
of advance even farther to the north. 
When the First U.S. Army continued to 
drive northeastward, the result was a 
growing gap which left both British and 
Americans with exposed flanks. Neither 
had the troops at hand to fill the gap 
adequately. 

To do what he could to fill the gap, 
Montgomery had committed the 8 British 
Corps to drive north and northeast on the 
right wing of the Second Army; but like 
the XIX Corps, the 8 Corps had only two 
divisions. Two divisions could not hope 
to eliminate a great right-angle gap which 
ran from the vicinity of Nijmegen to the 



39 Ltr, Bradley to Eisenhower, 14 Sep 44, 12th 
A Gp 371.3, Military Objectives, I. Note also 
par. 6, 21 A Gp Gen Opnl Sit and Dir M-523, 
3 Sep 44, same file. 



boundary with the XIX Corps near 
Sittard. 

On 19 September, the date when Gen- 
eral Corlett issued the order to attack the 
West Wall, the great gap already was a 
matter of primary concern. The front of 
the 8 Corps ran along the Maastricht 
Canal from a point near the army group 
boundary thirteen miles north of Maas- 
tricht northwest to Bree, thence to a 
bridgehead across the Meuse-Escaut Ca- 
nal, eight miles beyond. The 30 Corps 
in the meantime had pushed north into 
Eindhoven, enabling patrols of the 8 Corps 
to get into Heeze, southeast of Eindhoven; 
thus the tip of the 8 Corps at Heeze was 
more than thirty-five miles from the main 
concentration of the 2d U.S. Armored 
Division at Sittard. A great triangular 
expanse of territory of more than 112 
square miles lay open to the Germans. 
The northern flank of the XIX Corps al- 
ready was exposed for more than nine 
miles. Continuing east through the West 
Wall would extend the flank proportion- 
ately. 

No one could say that the XIX Corps 
had not kept its own house in order, for 
General Corlett had made special efforts to 
clear his zone right up to the boundary 
with the British. On 16 September, 
while the 2d Armored Division was 
attacking east of the Maas River to close 
up to the boundary around Sittard, a 
special task force had crossed the Maas- 
tricht Canal just north of Maastricht to 
attack north and clear a strip of land 
lying between the canal and the Maas as 
far north as the boundary with the 
British. Commanded by Lt. Col. William 
M. Stokes, Jr., the task force was com- 
posed of the separate 99th Infantry Bat- 
talion (Lt. Col. Robert G. Turner), a 
battalion of the 2d Armored Division's 



114 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



tanks, plus increments of artillery, en- 
gineers, and medics. Either pushing back 
or annihilating parts of the 176th 
Division, Task Force Stokes in three days 
had covered the nine miles north to the 
boundary. While the tanks returned to 
their parent division, the 99th Infantry 
Battalion stayed behind to defend the sec- 
tor and maintain contact with the British 
to the northwest on the other side of the 
canal. 40 

On the other hand, clearing the entire 
zone was not sufficient to override the fact 
that the responsibility for protecting First 
Army's left flank belonged undeniably to 
the XIX Corps. First Army's General 
Hodges and the Second British Army's 
Lt. Gen. Miles C. Dempsey had discussed 
the problem on 15 September and reiter- 
ated that understanding. 41 For the mo- 
ment, at least, the British had incurred no 
obligation to advance east of the Maas 
River. Even if the British cleared the 
west bank of the Maas, the XIX Corps 
still would be in danger, for most of the 
open flank lay east of the river. 

For all the concern about the open 
flank, General Corlett intended to go 
through with the West Wall attack on 20 
September before the Germans could get 
set in their fortifications. Assisted by a 
saturation air bombardment, the 30th 
Division was to assault the line near the 
village of Rimburg, between Geilenkirchen 
and Aachen, nine miles north of Aachen. 
The 2d Armored Division was to protect 
the corps north flank along the Sittard- 
Geilenkirchen highway and prepare to 



40 For a detailed account of this operation, see 
Capt. Franklin Ferriss, Operation of Task Force 
"Stokes," 16-18 September, 1944 a preliminary 
manuscript in XIX Corps Combat Interv files. 

41 Memo to CG XIX Corps, 15 Sep 44, FUSA 
G-3 file, 9-23 Sep 44. 



send one combat command through the 
West Wall to exploit to the east the gains 
of the 30th Division. To assist the 
armor on the north flank, General Corlett 
told the 30th Division to take over the job 
of maintaining contact with the VII 
Corps west of Aachen; then he trans- 
ferred the 1 1 3th Cavalry Group to the 
corps north flank on the left of the armor 
between Sittard and the Maas. 42 

As soon as the 30th Division could 
pierce the West Wall, General Hobbs was 
to turn his infantry southeast to make a 
junction seven miles away with the VII 
Corps northeast of Aachen. But by day- 
light of 20 September — D Day for the 

assault both Hobbs and General Corlett 

were displaying mounting concern over 
the fact that once the 30th Division 
turned to make this junction, both the 
division's left and right flanks would be 
exposed, the latter toward enemy forces 
still remaining in Aachen. Although 
neither commander doubted that the 
infantry could pierce the West Wall itself, 
the experience of the VII Corps near 
Stolberg had shown that the Germans, 
for all their deficiencies, could muster 
reserves for commitment at critical points. 
Because the XIX Corps was drastically 
short on artillery ammunition, the fear of 
German reserves took on added weight. 
The ammunition shortage likewise in- 
creased the need for large-scale air support, 
and the weather forecast for 20 September 
was not at all promising. General Corlett 
insisted that he make no attack without 
adequate support from the air. 

Because the weather failed to clear 
sufficiently either on 20 September or the 
day after, General Corlett postponed the 

42 XIX Corps FO 26, 19 Sep 44! '13* Cav 
Gp and 2d Armd Div AARs, Sep 44. 



ACTION ON THE NORTH WING 



115 



offensive both times. To the Germans, 
these two days meant an unexpected but 
welcome chance to improve their positions. 
To the Americans, they provided an op- 
portunity to ponder those apprehensions 
generated by the exposed north flank, by 
the paucity of ammunition reserves, and 
by the possibility of violent enemy reaction 
whenever the 30th Division exposed both 
flanks to link up with the VII Corps. 
News about the German countermeasures 
against the V Corps bridgehead at Wal- 
lendorf did nothing to alleviate these fears. 
General Corlett must have noted that 
from the British front in the Netherlands 
all the way down to the Third Army's 
battleground at Metz, the enemy was 
rebounding almost miraculously. 

Though not so obvious as cloudy skies 
or scant stocks of ammunition, this grow- 
ing belief that, after all, the Germans had 
only been playing dead was perhaps the 
most important deterrent to launching the 
West Wall attack. Besides, the port of 
Brest had fallen; the commanders must 
have been aware that if they waited long 
enough, at least one of the divisions .from 
Brittany might become available for the 
assault. In midmorning of 22 September, 
after all three of the First Army's corps 
commanders had conferred for two hours 
with the army commander, General 
Hodges authorized General Corlett to 
postpone the attack indefinitely. 43 

43 30th Div G-3 Jnl, 22 Sep 44. See also Tel 
Convs, Corlett with Hobbs, recorded in 30th Div 



On this same day of 22 September, the 
VII Corps went on the defensive in the 
Stolberg Corridor and the V Corps with- 
drew the last troops from the ill-starred 
Wallendorf bridgehead. Thus, all of the 
First Army with the exception of two 
regiments of the gth Division in the 
Huertgen Forest sector settled down to a 
period of readjustment of lines, replenish- 
ment of supplies, and general preparation 
for the day when General Hodges would 
direct a continuation of the drive toward 
the Rhine. 

General Corlett's XIX Corps in ten days 
had pushed from the Albert Canal to the 
German border, a distance ranging from 
fifteen to thirty-three miles. The corps 
had cleared approximately 547 square 
miles of territory in Belgium, the Nether- 
lands, and Germany and had pushed back 
parts of three German divisions. The 
Germans nevertheless had made note- 
worthy inroads on the speed of the Ameri- 
can advance. When combined with the 
gasoline shortage and the reduction in 
strength which had cut the XIX Corps to 
two divisions, this resistance had pro- 
vided sufficient time to enable a fresh 
German unit to reach the West Wall and 
to deny the XIX Corps a timely interven- 
tion in the neighboring battle of the 
Stolberg Corridor. 



G-3 Jnl file, 19-22 Sep 44; Memo, Corlett for 
Hodges, 21 Sep 44, XIX Corps G-3 file, 19-22 
Sep 44; Sylvan Diary, entry of 22 Sep 44; Ltr, 
Corlett to OCMH, 2 Sep 53, OCMH. 



PART TWO 
AN AIRBORNE CARPET IN THE NORTH 



CHAPTER VI 

Operation Market- Garden 



A maxim of war is that you reinforce 
success. In early September of 1944, the 
problem was not to find a success but to 
choose among many. The very nature of 
General Eisenhower's strategic reserve nar- 
rowed the choice. His reserve was not 
conventional but airborne. 

In anticipation of an opportunity to use 
this latent strength, General Eisenhower 
as early as mid-July had solicited his 
planners to prepare an airborne plan 
marked by "imagination and daring." 
Spurred by this directive and the glittering 
successes of the breakout and pursuit, the 
planning staffs had begun almost to mass 
produce blueprints for airborne operations. 
By mid-August creation of a combined 
Allied airborne headquarters controlling 
most of the airborne troops and much of 
the troop carrier strength in the theater 
had implemented the planning. This 
headquarters was the First Allied Air- 
borne Army. 1 General Eisenhower's de- 
sire for a suitable occasion to employ the 
army was heightened by the fact that the 
U.S. Chief of Staff, General Marshall, 
and General Henry H. Arnold, Com- 
manding General, Army Air Forces, 
wanted to see what a large-scale airborne 
attack could accomplish deep in enemy 
territory. 2 

By the time the first Allied patrols 
neared the German border, eighteen sep- 

1 For details on formation of the FAAA, see 
James A. Huston, Airborne Operations, MS in 
OCMH. 

2 Pogue, The Supreme Command, p. 279 ff. 



arate airborne plans had been considered. 
Five had reached the stage of detailed 
planning. Three had progressed almost 
to the point of launching. But none had 
matured. The fledgling plans embraced 
a variety of objectives: the city of 
Tournai, to block Germans retreating from 
the Channel coast; the vicinity of Liege, 
to get the First Army across the Meuse 
River; the Aachen-Maastricht gap, to 
get Allied troops through the West Wall. 
In most cases fast-moving ground troops 
were about to overrun the objectives be- 
fore an airborne force could be thrown in. 3 
No matter that circumstances had 
denied an immediate commitment of 
SHAEF's strategic reserve; the maxim of 
reinforcing success was nonetheless valid. 
Indeed, each day of fading summer and 
continued advance heightened desire for 
early use of the airborne troops. The 
paratroopers and glidermen resting and 
training in England became, in effect, 
coins burning holes in SHAEF's pocket. 
This is not to say that SHAEF intended 
to spend the airborne troops rashly but 
that SHAEF had decided on the advisa- 

3 The five major plans are discussed in detail 
in Hq, FAAA, History of Headquarters First 
Allied Airborne Army, 2 Aug 44-20 May 45 
(hereafter cited as FAAA, History), SHAEF 
FAAA files. For a discussion of the methods by 
which planning was initiated see John C. War- 
ren, Airborne Operations in World War II, 
European Theater (USAF Hist Studies: No. 97, 
USAF Hist Div, Research Studies Institute, Air 
University) (Maxwell, Ala.: Maxwell Air Force 
Base, September 1956), p. 82. 



120 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



bility of buying an airborne product and 
was looking about for the right occasion. 
Even the Germans believed an airborne 
attack imminent, although they had no 
fixed idea where. 4 

The fact that a sensitive ear might have 
detected portentous sputterings as the 
Allied war machine neared the German 
border did little or nothing to lessen in- 
terest in an airborne operation. Except in 
the case of General Bradley, who was 
reluctant to relinquish the support of 
troop carrier aircraft flying supply mis- 
sions, the signs that the pursuit might be 
nearing an end heightened the desire to 
use the airborne troops." Both General 
Eisenhower and Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery began to look to the airborne 
forces for the extra push needed to get the 
Allies across the Rhine River before the 
logistical situation should force a halt and 
enable the Germans to recoup behind the 
Rhine. 

Most of the airborne plans considered 
in the last days of August and in early 
September focused upon getting some part 
of the Allied armies across the Rhine. 
Among these was Operation Comet, a 
plan to seize river crossings in the Nether- 
lands near Arnhem along the projected 
axis of the Second British Army. Comet 
still was on the drawing boards when 
concern mounted that the one and a half 
airborne divisions allotted for the job 
would be insufficient. On 10 September 
Comet was canceled. 

Though canceled, Comet was not 
abandoned. On the day of cancellation, 
10 September, Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery approached General Eisenhower 

4 See Lucian Heichler, Invasion From the Sky, 
MS prepared to complement this volume and 
filed in OCMH. 

5 General Bradley's views are expressed in A 
Soldier's Story, page 403. 



with another proposal that was in effect 
a strengthening of Comet. After Gen- 
eral Eisenhower had endorsed it, this plan 
looked like the real thing. 

The new plan was labeled Operation 
Market. Three and a half airborne 
divisions were to drop in the vicinity of 
Grave, Nijmegen, and Arnhem to seize 
bridges over several canals and the Maas, 
Waal (Rhine), and Neder Rijn Rivers. 
They were to open a corridor more than 
fifty miles long leading from Eindhoven 
northward. As soon as an adequate land- 
ing field could be secured, an air portable 
division was to be flown in as rein- 
forcement. 

In a companion piece named Operation 
Garden, ground troops of the Second 
British Army were to push from the 
Dutch-Belgian border to the IJsselmeer 
( Zuider Zee ) , a total distance of ninety- 
nine miles. The main effort of the ground 
attack was to be made by the 30 Corps 
from a bridgehead across the Meuse- 
Escaut Canal a few miles south of Eind- 
hoven on the Dutch-Belgian frontier. 
(See Map l.)\ On either flank the 8 and 
12 Corps were to launch supporting 
attacks. 

Operation Market-Garden had two 
major objectives: to get Allied troops 
across the Rhine and to capture the Ruhr. 
Three major advantages were expected to 
accrue : ( i ) cutting the land exit of 
those Germans remaining in western Hol- 
land; (2) outflanking the West Wall, 
and (3) positioning British ground forces 
for a subsequent drive into Germany along 
the North German Plain. 6 

2 1 A Gp General Operational Situation arid 
Directive, M-525, 14 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, 
I ; FAAA, Operations in Holland, Sep-Nov 44, 
and Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Airborne Opera- 
tions in Holland (Sep-Oct 44), SHAEF FAAA 
files. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



121 



Although the proposed operation 
prompted some objections at 12th Army 
Group, at First Allied Airborne Army, and 
even among some members of Field Mar- 
shal Montgomery's staff, it conformed to 
General Arnold's recommendation for an 
operation some distance behind the en- 
emy's forward positions and beyond the 
area where enemy reserves normally were 
located; it afforded an opportunity for 
using the long-idle airborne resources; it 
was in accord with Montgomery's desire 
for a thrust across the Rhine, while the 
enemy was disorganized; and it appeared 
to General Eisenhower to be the boldest 
and best move the Allies could make 
at the moment. At the least, General 
Eisenhower thought the operation would 
strengthen the 21 Army Group in its 
later fight to clear the Schelde estuary 
and open the port of Antwerp to Allied 
shipping. Field Marshal Montgomery ex- 
amined the objections that the proposed 
route of advance "involved the additional 
obstacle of the Lower Rhine (Neder Rijn) 
as compared with more easterly ap- 
proaches, and would carry us to an area 
relatively remote from the Ruhr." He 
considered these to be overridden by the 
fact that the operation would outflank the 
West Wall, would be on a line which the 
enemy would consider least likely for the 
Allies to use, and would be within easy 
range of Allied airborne forces located in 
England. 7 

Operation Market-Garden was noth- 
ing if not daring. It was particularly so 
in light of a logistical situation that, at 
best, was strained and in light of the 
unpredictable nature of the weather in 
northwestern Europe at this season. Set 
against these factors was the climate of 



Pogue, The Supreme Command, pp. 281-82. 



opinion that pervaded most Allied head- 
quarters during early September. This 
was the same optimistic period when the 
First Army was preparing to dash through 
the West Wall in a quick drive to the 
Rhine. Not until the day Operation 
Market began was the First Army to 
experience any particular trouble in the 
West Wall; even then it would have been 
hard to convince most Allied commanders 
that this rugged countenance the Germans 
had begun to exhibit was anything more 
than a mask. 

Fairly typical of the Allied point of view 
was SHAEF's estimate of the situation a 
week before the airborne attack. The 
SHAEF G-2 estimated enemy strength 
throughout the West at 48 divisions with 
a true equivalent of 20 infantry and 4 
armored divisions. Four days before the 
airborne attack the 1st British Airborne 
Corps calculated that the Germans in the 
Netherlands had few infantry reserves and 
a total armored strength of not more than 
fifty to one hundred tanks. While nu- 
merous signs pointed to German reinforce- 
ments of river and canal lines near Arn- 
hem and Nijmegen, the British believed 
the troops manning them were few and of 
a "low category." Thinking back after 
the operation was over, the 1st Brit- 
ish Airborne Division recalled, "It was 
thought the enemy must still be dis- 
organized after his long and hasty retreat 
from south of the River Seine and that 
though there might be numerous small 
bodies of enemy in the area, he would not 
be capable of organized resistance to any 
great extent." 8 



8 SHAEF Weekly Intel Summary 25, week 
ending 9 Sep 44; Hq Abn Troops Opnl Instr 1, 
13 Sep 44, 1st Abn Div Rpt on Opn Market, 
Pts. 1-3, SHAEF FAAA files. 



122 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



This is not to say that warning notes 
were not struck. By 10 September, the 
day when General Eisenhower approved 
the operation, the British had remarked 
that "Dutch Resistance sources report 
that battered panzer formations have been 
sent to Holland to refit, and mention 
Eindhoven and Nijmegen as the reception 
areas." 9 A few days later the SHAEF 
G-2 announced that these panzer forma- 
tions were the gth SS Panzer Division 
and presumably the ioth SS Panzer Di- 
vision. They probably were to be re- 
equipped with new tanks from a depot 
reported "in the area of Cleves [Kleve]," 
a few miles across the German frontier 
from Nijmegen and Arnhem. 10 

News of these two German armored 
divisions near Arnhem caused particular 
concern to General Eisenhower's chief of 
staff, Lt. Gen. Walter B. Smith. Believ- 
ing strongly that the Allies would have to 
employ not one but two airborne divisions 
at Arnhem if they were to counter the 
German armor, General Smith obtained 
the Supreme Commander's permission to 
go to Field Marshal Montgomery with a 
warning. Either they should "drop the 
equivalent of a second division in the 
Arnhem area" or change the plan and 
move one of the American divisions, 
scheduled to drop farther south, up to 
Arnhem. But, General Smith recalled 
after the war, "Montgomery "ridiculed 



9 Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe 
(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952), p. 488. 
Though sparse in his annotation, Wilmot appears 
to speak with some authority on British sources 
not readily available to the American historian. 
In this instance he refers to an unspecified in- 
telligence report of the Second Army. 

10 SHAEF Weekly Intel Summary 26, week 
ending 16 Sep 44. 



the idea" and "waved my objections airily 
aside." 11 

The likelihood of encountering enemy 
armor in the vicinity of the drop zones 
obviously was of serious concern to air- 
borne commanders, particularly in view of 
the fifty-mile dispersion of the airborne 
drop. American commanders, whose 
troops possessed even less in the way of 
antitank weapons than did British air- 
borne troops, were especially perturbed. 12 
There were other disturbing signs. Stif- 
fening resistance around the British 
bridgehead across the Meuse-Escaut 
Canal did not go unremarked. 13 The 
G-2 of the 82d U.S. Airborne Division 
noted further, "A captured document 
indicates that the degree of control exer- 
cised over the regrouping and collecting 
of the apparently scattered remnants of a 
beaten army [was] little short of remark- 
able. Furthermore, the fighting capacity 
of the new Battle Groups formed from the 
remnants of battered divisions seems un- 
impaired." 14 

Despite these warnings, the general view 
appeared to be as recounted after the 
operation by the British Airborne Corps. 
This was that "once the crust of resistance 
in the front line had been broken, the 



11 Interv by European theater historians with 
Gen Smith and Maj Gen Harold R. Bull (G-3, 
SHAEF), 14 Sep 45; Interv with Gen Smith by 
S. L. A. Marshall, 18 Apr 49, both in OCMH. 

12 Ltr, Lt Gen Anthony C McAuliffe (formerly 
CG, 101st Abn Div Arty) to OCMH, 8 Feb 54, 
and Ltr, Maj Gen James M. Gavin (formerly 
CG, 82d Abn Div) to OCMH, 17 Jan 54, 
OCMH. 

13 Wilmot, in The Struggle for Europe, notes 
that General Dempsey, commander of the Sec- 
ond Army, was so concerned about this and the 
reported panzer formations that he recommended 
a drop near Wesel, upstream from Arnhem, 
closer to the flank of the First U.S. Army. 

14 82d Abn Div, Annex ic to FO 11 (13 Sep 
44), dtd 11 Sep 44, 82d Abn Div FO 11 file. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



123 



German Army would be unable to con- 
centrate any other troops in sufficient 
strength to stop the breakthrough." Al- 
though the 30 British Corps would have 
to advance ninety-nine miles, leading units 
"might reach the Zuider Zee between 
2-5 days after crossing the Belgian-Dutch 
frontier." 1 

The Germans in the Netherlands 

Had Market-Garden been scheduled 
two weeks earlier than it was, the Allies 
would have found the German situation in 
the Netherlands much as they predicted. 
For not until 4 September, when news of 
the fall of Antwerp had jolted Hitler into 
dispatching General Student and head- 
quarters of the First Parachute Army to 
the Dutch-Belgian border, was cohesion 
of any description introduced into German 
defenses along this "door to northwestern 
Germany." General Student had at first 
but one corps, the LXXXVIII Corps 
under General der Infanterie Hans Rein- 
hard, and one division, the 719th Infantry 
Division under Generalleutnant Karl 
Sievers. The corps headquarters General 
Student had borrowe d from the neig hbor- 



ing Fifteenth Army. (See Map I.) The 



division was a "fortress" division that had 
been guarding the coast of the Nether- 
lands since 1940. 

Though at full strength, this one divi- 
sion was scarcely sufficient to cover the 
entire corps front, a fifty-mile stretch 
along the Albert Canal from Antwerp 
southeast to Hasselt. General Reinhard 
therefore concentrated the bulk of the 
719th Division in the west near Antwerp 
where he expected the main British at- 
tack. A drive north from Antwerp was 

1 5 Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in 
Holland. 



logical, for by continuing in this direction 
the British might seal off the island of 
Walcheren and the peninsula of South 
Beveland from the Dutch mainland. This 
appeared expedient; for even though 
seizure of Antwerp had trapped the Ger- 
man Fifteenth Army against the coast the 
bulk of that army yet might escape across 
the Schelde estuary to Walcheren and 
South Beveland and thence to the main- 
land. If the British corked up these two 
promontories, they might annihilate the 
Fifteenth Army at will and in so doing 
clear the seaward approaches to Antwerp, 
without which the port was useless. 16 

General Reinhard hardly could have 
anticipated that Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery was so intent on getting a bridge- 
head across the Rhine that he would turn 
his drive northeastward toward the left 
wing of the LXXXVIII Corps in the 
direction of Eindhoven. From a local 
viewpoint, the reorientation of the British 
drive meant that the 719th Divisions 
Albert Canal line would be hit along its 
weak eastern extension. 

Prospects for averting a major break- 
through across the Albert toward Eind- 
hoven were dark, when from an 
unexpected source came assistance. It 



10 This account is based upon Heichler, Inva- 
sion From the Sky. Primary sources are: MS 
$ B-717, Zusatz zum Bericht von Oberst i.G. 
Geyer (Student); MS # B-156, Bericht ueber 
den Einsatz des General-Kommandos LXXXVIII. 
A.K. vom Albert Kanal bis zur unteren Maas, 
5 Sept 44-31 Dez 44 (Reinhard) ; MS # B-0O4, 
Bericht ueber de Einsatz der Jig. Inf-Div im 
Raum Antwerp en-Breda Sep 44 (Sievers); MS 
# B-846, Aufstellung und Einsatz der 85. In- 
fanterie-Division im Westen (Feb— Nov 44) (Lt 
Col Kurt Schuster, formerly G-3, 85th Inf Div) ; 
MS # C-001, Kaempfe des Fallschirmjaeger- 
regiments 6 mit amerik. Fallschirmjaegern im 
Holland im Sept 44 (von der Heydte); 201 file 
of senior officers of the Wehrmacht; Lage West 
and Lage Frankreich sit maps for Sep 44. 



124 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



emerged in the form of an audacious and 
prescient commander, Generalleutnant 
Kurt Chill. Retreating from the debacle 
in France with remnants of his own 85th 
Infantry Division and two others, General 
Chill had received orders to assemble his 
survivors in the Rhineland. Soon there- 
after, General Chill perceived the critical 
situation along the Albert Canal. Acting 
with independence and dispatch, he post- 
poned his withdrawal in order to set up 
straggler rallying points along the canal. 
By nightfall of 4 September General Chill 
had caught in his net a conglomeration of 
Navy, Luftwaffe, and military government 
troops and men from almost every con- 
ceivable branch of the Wehrmacht. A 
crazy-quilt mob — but General Chill man- 
aged in a matter of hours to fashion a 
fairly presentable defense that was suffi- 
cient to repulse the first minor British 
probes toward the canal. 

On 6 September General Chill reported 
to General Reinhard to subordinate his 
Kampjgruppe Chill to the LXXXVIII 
Corps. General Reinhard must have em- 
braced the reinforcement with delight; for 
on this same day the British had pene- 
trated the extended outposts of the 7igth 
Division to force a bridgehead over the 
Albert at Beeringen. (This was one of 
the bridgeheads subsequently employed by 
General Corlett's XIX U.S. Corps to get 
across the canal.) To General Chill fell 
the problem of containing the bridgehead. 

For all the danger inherent in the 
Beeringen bridgehead, the First Parachute 
Army commander, General Student, could 
take satisfaction in the fact that tangible 
subordinate units now were controlling 
the bulk of his front from Antwerp to 
Hasselt. Only on the extreme eastern 
wing near Maastricht was there an out- 
and-out gap, and this he was to fill the 



next day, 7 September, with the ij6th 
Division under Colonel Landau. (This 
was the division which subsequently op- 
posed the left wing of General Corlett's 
XIX Corps.) 

During the next fortnight, some of 
General Student's own parachute troops 
began to arrive in the army sector. Hav- 
ing been either rehabilitated or newly 
constituted, these units included five new 
parachute regiments, a new parachute 
antitank battalion, about 5,000 service 
troops, a battalion of the ad Parachute 
Regiment, and another formation with a 
noble record, the 6th Parachute Regi- 
ment. Under command of Lt. Col. 
Friedrich-August Freiherr von der Heydte, 
the 6th Parachute Regiment had ac- 
quitted itself admirably enough in Nor- 
mandy to attain the prestige, if not the 
strength, of a division. The regiment 
had been reconstituted to a strength 
considerably in excess of a normal para- 
chute regiment. 17 

General Student threw in the bulk of 
his parachute troops against the British 
bridgehead at Beeringen. First he com- 
mitted one of the newly constituted 
parachute regiments, the battalion of the 
sd Parachute Regiment, and the entire 
6th Parachute Regiment, all organized into 
a Kampjgruppe that took its name from 
the commander, Colonel Walther. 18 Next 
General Student threw in three of his 
remaining new parachute regiments, or- 
ganized into Parachute Training Division 

17 This regiment should not be confused with 
the 6th Parachute Division. 

18 Few records pertaining to Kampjgruppe 
Walther survived the war. Composition of the 
Kampjgruppe apparently underwent constant 
change. Both the 6th Parachute Regiment and 
the battalion of the sd Parachute Regiment, for 
example, subsequently .were attached to Kampj- 
gruppe Chill, while Kampjgruppe Walther took 
on new attachments. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



125 



Erdmann under Student's chief of staff, 
Generalleutnant Wolfgang Erdmann. 19 

These units were responsible for the 
stiffening German resistance noted along 
the Dutch-Belgian border. Yet the end 
result was merely to weaken the German 
paratroopers on the very eve of Market- 
Garden. By mid-September the British 
had defeated every effort to repulse them 
at Beeringen and had pressed forward an 
additional twenty miles to throw two 
bridgeheads across the Meuse-Escaut 
Canal. The main bridgehead was at De 
Groote Barrier on the road to Eindhoven. 
There the British paused to await their 
role in Market-Garden. 

From west to east the First Parachute 
Army was lined up in this order of battle: 
From Antwerp to the juncture of the 
Albert and Meuse-Escaut Canals was 
General Sievers' Jigth Division. Oppos- 
ing the two British bridgeheads beyond 
the Meuse-Escaut were Kampjgruppe 
Chill and Kampjgruppe Walther, the lat- 
ter with at least two battalions of Colonel 
von der Heydte's 6th Parachute Regiment 
still on hand. All these troops were under 
General Reinhard's LXXXVIII Corps. 
From the bridgehead on the Eindhoven 
highway east to the boundary with the 
Seventh Army near Maastricht were the 
two divisions under General Student's 
direct control, Division Erdmann and the 
ij6th Division. 

In the meantime, the trapped Fifteenth 
Army under General der Infanterie Gus- 
tav von Zangen had been taking advant- 
age of the reorientation of the British 
drive. Leaving some units to hold the 
south bank of the Schelde, Zangen began 
to ferry the bulk of his army across the 
estuary. Divisions released by this move- 

19 This unit later was redesignated the yth 
Parachute Division. 



ment he assembled behind the western 
wing of the First Parachute Army. 

The first of these divisions was the 
245th Infantry, a collection of chaff that 
even a mild wind might blow away. On 
16 September this division was transferred 
to the First Parachute Army's LXXXVIII 
Corps and utilized by General Reinhard 
to back up the line in rear of Kampf- 
gruppe Chill. 

The second was the $gth Infantry 
Division under Generalleutnant Walter 
Poppe, which was in transit to the First 
Parachute Army's sector just as the Allied 
airborne landings occurred. General 
Poppe still had about a thousand good 
infantrymen and a few engineers, a field 
replacement battalion, eighteen antitank 
guns, and about thirty 105- and 150-mm. 
howitzers. 20 

Both the First Parachute Army and the 
Fifteenth Army were subordinate to Field 
Marshal Model's Army Group B, the 
same headquarters which controlled Gen- 
eral Brandenberger's Seventh Army at 
Aachen. In addition, Field Marshal 
Model exercised tactical control over 
forces of the Armed Forces Command 
Netherlands, a headquarters not appreci- 
ably unlike that of a U.S. communications 
zone. Specifically, an armed forces com- 
mander was the highest military com- 
mander in occupied territories (like 
Norway or the Netherlands), which were 
governed by a civilian (Nazi party) Reich 
commissioner (Reichskommissar) . His 
duties were to represent the interests of the 
Wehrmacht with the civilian administra- 
tion, to safeguard the administration, to 
guard military installations such as rail- 
ways, roads, and supply dumps, and to 

20 MSS # B-156 (Reinhard) and # B-149, 
Einsatz der 59. Infanterie-Division im Holland, 
18 Sept-25 Nov 44 (Poppe). 



126 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



co-ordinate the needs of individual 
branches of the Wehrmacht in his 
territory. In the Netherlands this post 
had been held since 1940 by the senior 
Luftwaffe officer, General der Flieger 
Friedrich Christiansen. 21 

Even though the First Parachute Army 
and part of the Fifteenth Army had moved 
into the Netherlands, General Christian- 
sen's Armed Forces Command Nether- 
lands on the eve of Market-Garden still 
was charged with considerable responsi- 
bility. Much as U.S. forces draw army 
rear boundaries delineating responsibility 
between the armies and the communica- 
tions zone, the Germans had drawn a line 
across the rear of their two armies in the 
Netherlands. General Christiansen still 
was charged with defending all territory 
north of that line, which followed gener- 
ally the Maas and Waal Rivers. Because 
Market-Garden involved a penetration 
deep into the enemy rear areas, Christian- 
sen and his troops would be embroiled in 
the fighting much as would the field 
armies. 

Through events culminating in depar- 
ture of the 719th Division for the 
Dutch-Belgian border, General Christian- 
sen had lost to the active fighting com- 
mands all of three divisions which 
originally he had possessed for defense of 
the Netherlands. As mid-September ap- 
proached, he had left only a miscellany of 
regional defense and housekeeping troops 



21 OKH/Op Abt (77), Befehlsbefugnisse, 
NARS No. H 22/243; MS # T-101, The 
German Armed Forces High Command (Winter 
et al.) , Pt. II, pp. 95-96. Heichler, Invasion 
From the Sky, Appendix A, provides a compre- 
hensive essay upon the German command picture 
in the Netherlands. 



of all four services: Army, Navy, Luft- 
waffe, and Waffen-SS. 22 

Because the Allied landing zones at 
Nijmegen and Arnhem were but a few 
miles from the German border, troops and 
headquarters of another of the enemy's 
rear echelon formations also might become 
involved. This headquarters was Wehr- 
kreis VI. Similar in some respects to the 
corps areas into which the United States 
was divided before the war, the German 
Wehrkreise were, in effect, military dis- 
tricts. The headquarters of these districts 
were administrative commands responsible 
for training replacements, organizing new 
units, and channeling materiel. Adjacent 
to the corridor the Allies planned to seize 
in the Netherlands, Wehrkreis VI em- 
braced almost the whole of the province of 
Westphalia and parts of three other prov- 
inces. During the course of the war, 
Wehrkreis VI had activated numerous 
divisions and, as the war in the West had 
taken a turn for the worse, had re- 
linquished as combat divisions even its 
replacement training units, the very 
framework about which the replacement 
system functioned. In mid-September the 
only major headquarters remaining in 
Wehrkreis VI was an administrative unit. 
This too had to go into the line to occupy 
the West Wall north of Aachen as the 
406th (Landesschuetzen) Division. 

Upon reaching the front, the 406th 
Division came under an ad hoc corps staff 
headed by General der Kavallerie Kurt 
Feldt, formerly Military Governor for 
Southwest France (Militaerbefehlshaber 
Suedwestfrankreich) until the inexorable 

22 A complete list of all units and headquarters 
under Armed Forces Commander Netherlands 
may be found in TWX, A Gp. B to OB WEST, 
2 355; 23 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations- 
befehle. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



127 



march of events had dethroned him. In 
recognition of the provisional nature of the 
command, General Feldt's corps became 
known not by numerical designation but as 
Corps Feldt. Except for the 406th Divi- 
sion, General Feldt had only a smattering 
of armored replacement units. Within 
his lone division the troops represented the 
very last reserve Wehrkreis VI possibly 
could muster: various Alarmeinheiten 
(emergency alert units), numerous "ear" 
and "stomach" battalions, and several 
Luftwaffe battalions formed from Luft- 
waffe noncommissioned officer training 
schools. 

The Allied airborne attack under nor- 
mal circumstances might have encoun- 
tered only a portion of the First Parachute 
Army, those two divisions of the Fifteenth 
Army which by mid-September had 
escaped across the Schelde, and those 
scratch rear echelon formations of Armed 
Forces Commander Netherlands and 
Wehrkreis VI. But as luck would have 
it, Field Marshal Model late on 3 Septem- 
ber had issued an order that was destined 
to alter markedly the German strength in 
the immediate vicinity of the Allied land- 
ing zones. On 3 September the Army 
Group B commander had directed that 
the Fifth Panzer Army, retreating in dis- 
order from France, release the gth and 
10th SS Panzer Divisions to move to the 
vicinity of Arnhem for rehabilitation. 23 

Two days later Model ordered that 
headquarters of the // SS Panzer Corps 
under SS-Obergruppenfuehrer und Gen- 
eral der Waffen-SS Willi Bittrich also 
move to the vicinity of Arnhem. General 
Bittrich was to direct rehabilitation of the 
gth SS Panzer Division and two panzer 

23 Order, A Gp B to Fifth Pz Army, 2215, 3 
Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 



divisions (the 2d and 116th), which were 
to move to the Netherlands whenever they 
could disengage from combat under 
General Brandenberger's Seventh Army. 2i 
In failing to include the 10th SS Panzer 
Division in the charge to General Bittrich, 
Model apparently had in mind another 
order which he issued formally four days 
later on 9 September. He instructed the 
10th SS Panzer Division to continue past 
Arnhem into Germany for rehabilitation 
presumably more thorough than could be 
accomplished near Arnhem. At the same 
time, Model altered General Bittrich's 
orders in regard to the gth SS Panzer 
Division. Seeing the threat to Aachen 
posed by continuing advance of the First 
U.S. Army, Model instructed the gth SS 
Panzer to prepare to move against this 
threat. 25 

Unfortunately for the Allies, only minor 
elements of either of these SS divisions had 
begun to move away when the first Allied 
parachutists landed unsuspectingly within 
half a day's march from their assembly 
areas. Field Marshal Model thus had a 
ready reserve with which to fight back. 

Seven Days for Planning 

On the Allied side, the planning and 
command for the airborne phase of 
Market-Garden became the responsibil- 
ity of the First Allied Airborne Army. 
The army commander, Lt. Gen. Lewis H. 
Brereton, had been a top air commander 



24 Order, A Gp B to II SS Pz Corps, 1230, 
5 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. See 
also MS # B-749, Kurzschilderung der Kaempfe 
des II SS-Pz Korps im der Zeit vom 28 Aug-5 
Sept 44 (Bittrich). 

25 Orders, A Gp B to II SS Pz Corps, 1345 and 
1830, 9 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations- 
befehle. 



128 

in the Pacific and the Middle Easl. 2B 
Having moved to England as commander 
of the Ninth Air Force for the air war 
against Germany, General Brereton had 
assumed command of the First Allied Air- 
borne Army on 8 August 1944. He was 
given operational control of the following: 
headquarters of the XVIII U.S. Corps 
(Airborne), commanded by Maj. Gen. 
Matthew B. Ridgway; headquarters of the 
1 st British Airborne Corps, commanded 
by Lt. Gen. F. A. M. Browning, who 
served also as deputy commander of the 
First Allied Airborne Army; the IX U.S. 
Troop Carrier Command under Maj. 
Ccn. Paul L. Williams; and two Royal 
Air Force troop carrier groups (38 and 
46). American airborne troops under 
General Brerctons control were the vet- 
eran 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions 
and the untried 17th Airborne Division, 
the latter not scheduled to participate in 
Market. British troops at his disposal 
were the 1st Airborne Division and the 5 a 
Lowland Division ( Airportable ) , plus spe- 
cial air service troops and the 1st Polish 
Independent Parachute Brigade, the latter 
to serve in Market under command of 
the 1st Airborne Division. 27 

The first major planning conference on 
Operation Market convened in England 
late on io September, only a few hours 
after General Eisenhower in a meeting 
with Montgomery at Brussels had given his 
approval. The first conference dealt pri- 

ir ' In the Pacific as commander of the U.S. 
Far East Air Force and as deputy air commander 
in chief of the Allied Air Forces. In the Middle 
East as commander of the Middle East Air Force. 

For details see FAAA, History. The 6th 
British Airborne Division was not to participate 
in Market. Huston, Airborne Operations, 
discusses the location and training of airborne 
troops in England. A detailed discussion of the 
planning phase may be found in Warren, Air- 
borne Operations in World War II, pp. 80-100. 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




General Brereton 



marily with command and administration. 
As deputy commander of the First Allied 
Airborne Army, General Browning was to 
direct operations on the ground through 
headquarters of his British Airborne 
Corps. He and his headquarters were to 
fly in with the airborne divisions. The 
XVIII U.S. Corps was relegated to cer- 
tain administrative functions and to gen- 
eral observation of the planning and 
conduct of the operation. Once the 
ground troops overran the airborne divi- 
sions, command was to pass to the 30 
British Corps. Responsibility for the 
complex troop carrier role fell to the 
commander of the IX Troop Carrier 
Command, General Williams. The over- 
all commander was General Brereton. 28 

Although planning proceeded swiftly, 
Operation Market did not mature with- 



28 FAAA, Opns in Holland; XVIII Corps, 
Report of Airbnme Phase, Operation Market, 
SHAEF FAAA files. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



129 



out acute growing pains. At the outset, 
lack of supply threatened to stunt or at 
least delay growth. On 1 1 September 
Field Marshal Montgomery protested to 
General Eisenhower that the Supreme 
Commander's failure to give priority to 
the northern thrust over other operations 
(that is, to the exclusion of other offensive 
operations) meant that the airborne attack 
could not be staged before 23 September, 
and possibly not before 26 September. 
"This delay," the British commander 
warned, "will give the enemy time to 
organise better defensive arrangements 
and we must expect heavier resistance and 
slower progress." 29 

General Eisenhower promptly sent his 
chief of staff, General Smith, to 21 Army 
Group headquarters to assure Montgom- 
ery that Allied planes and American trucks 
could deliver a thousand tons of supplies 
per day. Confirming this in writing, 
General Eisenhower promised this tonnage 
until about 1 October. At the same time, 
he said, the First U.S. Army would have 
sufficient supplies to continue its attack at 
Aachen. 30 

Except that Montgomery urged that 
emergency supply be continued a week 
past 1 October, by which time a through 
railway supporting the British should be 
in operation, he was thoroughly placated. 
"Most grateful to you personally and to 
Beetle," Montgomery wrote the Supreme 
Commander, "for all you are doing for 
me." Making the usual salaam to the 
vagaries of weather, he set forward the 
target date six days to 17 September. 31 



29 Montgomery to Eisenhower, M-192, 11 Sep 
44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 

30 Eisenhower to Montgomery, FWD 14758, 
13 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 

31 Montgomery to Eisenhower, M-205, 14 Sep 
44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



Field Marshal Montgomery's decision 
meant that the First Allied Airborne Army 
had but seven days for planning and 
preparation, a period strikingly short — 
even in view of the similarity to the 
defunct operation Comet — when con- 
trasted with the long weeks and even 
months of planning and special training 
that had gone into most earlier airborne 
operations. Yet one of the cardinal rea- 
sons for executing Market at all was to 
take advantage of German disorganiza- 
tion: each day's delay lessened that 
advantage. With that in mind, Field 
Marshal Montgomery had made his de- 
cision on the side of speed. In approving, 
General Eisenhower noted that not only 
could advantage be expected from speedy 
exploitation of the enemy's condition but 
that an earlier release of the U.S. airborne 
divisions might be effected. This was 
desirable because of proposed operations 
to support General Bradley's 12th Army 
Group. 32 

One of the more crucial decisions facing 
General Brereton and the staff of the First 
Allied Airborne Army was that of daylight 
versus night attack. Moving by day, 
planes and gliders would be exposed to 
more accurate flak. This was a serious 
consideration, both because the C-47 
(Skytrain) troop carrier planes were low- 
speed aircraft possessing neither armor nor 
self-sealing gasoline tanks and because 
marked increase had been noted recently 
in antiaircraft guns in the vicinity of the 
target area. On the other hand, moving 
by night invited greater danger from 
enemy aircraft. Although the enemy's 
daylight fighter force had been reduced 
almost to inconsequence, his night fighters 

32 Eisenhower to Montgomery, 13 Sep 44. 
Montgomery comments in Normandy to the 
Baltic, p. 229. 



130 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



had retained some measure of potency. 
In regard to the actual drop, it went 
without saying that a daylight operation 
should provide a better drop pattern. To 
realize what could happen in the dark, 
one had but to recall the Normandy 
operation when drop sticks had scattered 
like windblown confetti. 

A major factor governing selection of a 
night drop in Normandy had been a need 
to co-ordinate airborne and seaborne 
units. The plan for co-ordination of air 
and ground efforts in Operation Market- 
Garden imposed no restrictions. Neither 
had the Allies at the time of the Normandy 
drop possessed the unquestioned air su- 
premacy they now had attained. It was 
an air supremacy that could be main- 
tained through proximity of the target 
area to bases in England, France, and 
Belgium. Assured of a comprehensive 
antiflak program, General Brereton made 
his decision: by day. 33 

Another question was which of two 
routes to take to the target area. (Map 
more direct route from England 
passed over islands in the Schelde-Maas 
estuary. The aircraft would be subject 
to fire from flak barges and coastal flak 
positions and would have to fly some 
eighty miles over enemy-occupied territory. 
The alternative was a longer southern 
route. Over friendly Belgium most of the 
way, this route involved a maximum flight 
over enemy territory of sixty-five miles. 
On the other hand, flak was thick among 
the enemy front lines south of Eindhoven. 

General Brereton and his planners con- 
sidered that one long column would expose 
rear elements to an alerted enemy and 
that parallel columns along the same path 

33 FAAA; Opns in Holland; XVIII Corps, 
Rpt of Abn Phase, comments by General 
Ridgway. 



would provide too many flak gunners 
with optimum targets. With these points 
in mind, they found a solution in compro- 
mise. The two divisions scheduled to 
land farthest north were to take the 
northern route across the Dutch islands. 
The other division was to follow the 
southern route across Belgium to a point 
near Bourg-Leopold, thence north across 
the front lines into the Netherlands. 34 

A third task of selecting appropriate 
drop and landing zones was more complex. 
Factors like flak, terrain, assigned objec- 
tives, priority of objectives, direction of 
flight — these and countless others entered 
into the consideration, so that in the end 
the drop zones that were selected repre- 
sented, as always, compromise in its 
least attractive connotation. The division 
scheduled to land farthest north, for ex- 
ample, wanted drop zones close to and on 
either side of the major objective of the 
Arnhem bridge across the Neder Rijn. 
Because of the buildings of the city, flak 
concentrations close to the city, and ter- 
rain south of the bridge deemed too boggy 
and too compartmented by dikes, this 
division settled for drop zones only on 
one side of the river and no closer to the 
bridge than six to eight miles. Whether 
flak and terrain might not have been less 
of a problem than distance from the 
objective hardly could have been an- 
swered unequivocally during the planning 
stage; indeed, the actual event may not 
always provide an unqualified answer. 35 

Terrain in the target area was unusual, 
a patchwork pattern of polder land, dikes, 

34 FAAA, Opns in Holland. 

35 Ibid.; also Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn 
Opns in Holland; Montgomery, Normandy to the 
Baltic, pp. 227-28; Ltr, Rev. Arie D. Beste- 
breurtje, formerly captain, commander of a 
Special Forces team attached to 82d Abn Div, to 
OCMH, 25 Oct 56, OCMH. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



131 



elevated roadways, and easily defended 
waterways. The biggest obstacles were 
the three major rivers, ranging in width 
from 200 to 400 yards, which provided the 
basic motive for airborne participation: 
the Maas (Meuse), the Waal (Rhine), 
and the Neder Rijn. The proposed cor- 
ridor also encompassed two smaller rivers, 
the Dommel and the Aa, and three major 
canals: the Wilhelmina, the Willems, and 
the Maas-Waal. 

Because of these waterways, the texture 
of the soil, and innumerable drainage 
ditches and dikes, a vehicular column 
would be road-bound almost all the way 
from Eindhoven to Arnhem. This was a 
harsh restriction. Although the cities of 
Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem are 
communications centers, all with more 
than 100,000 population, only one main 
highway passes through them in the direc- 
tion the ground troops in Operation 
Garden were to take. It runs from 
Eindhoven through St. Oedenrode, Veg- 
hel, Grave, and Nijmegen, thence to 
Arnhem. The planners had to consider 
that failure to secure any of the bridges 
along this route might spell serious delay 
and even defeat for the entire operation. 

Between Eindhoven and Arnhem the 
highway passes through flat, open country 
with less than a 30-foot variation in alti- 
tude over a distance of fifty miles. The 
only major elevations in the vicinity of 
the road are two hill masses: one north 
of the Neder Rijn, northwest and north of 
Arnhem, rising to more than 300 feet; the 
other between the Maas and Waal Rivers, 
southeast of Nijmegen, rising to 300 feet. 
The two elevations represented some of 
the highest ground in the Netherlands. 

Perhaps the most striking feature of the 
terrain is the extent and density of the 
vegetation. Almost every path and road 



is lined on either side by trees. Almost 
every field and every dike is topped by 
trees or large bushes. The result, during 
spring, summer, and early fall, is severe 
restriction of observation. Indeed, those 
who would fight in the Netherlands would 
encounter just as many problems of ob- 
servation as did others in earlier wars in 
Flanders and the Po Valley of Italy. In 
terrain like this, it is difficult for the 
stronger force to bring its full power to 
bear at any one point, and the ability of 
the weaker, defending force may be con- 
siderably enhanced. 

Either the bridges over the waterways 
or features necessary to ensure seizure and 
retention of the bridges made up the 
principal objectives assigned to the three 
airborne divisions. Dropping farthest 
south between Eindhoven and Veghel, the 
10 1st Airborne Division was to secure 
approximately fifteen miles of the corridor, 
including the city of Eindhoven and 
bridges at Zon, St. Oedenrode, and 
Veghel. The 82d Airborne Division was 
to drop in the middle to capture bridges 
over the Maas at Grave, the Waal at 
Nijmegen, and the Maas-Waal Canal in 
between, plus the high ground southeast 
of Nijmegen. To the 1st British Airborne 
Division fell the role farthest from the 
start line of the ground troops, that of 
securing a bridge over the Neder Rijn at 
Arnhem and maintaining a bridgehead 
north of the river sufficiently large to en- 
able the 30 Corps to pass through en route 
to the IJsselmeer. 36 The 1st Polish Para- 
chute Brigade was to drop on D plus 2 to 

30 General McAuliffe recalls that in the orig- 
inal plan the ioist Airborne Division was to have 
dropped at Arnhem but that the ist Airborne 
Division had requested a switch because its staff 
already had studied the Arnhem area for the 
defunct Operation Comet. Ltr to OCMH, 8 
Feb 54. 



132 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



strengthen the British at Arnhem, and the 
52 Lowland Division (Airportable) was to 
be flown in north of Arnhem as soon as 
landing strips could be prepared. Rein- 
forcing the British was in keeping with the 
fact that the 1st Airborne Division would 
be the last to be relieved by the ground 
columns. 37 

Operation Market was the largest air- 
borne operation ever mounted and was 
destined to retain that distinction through 
the rest of World War II. 38 Neverthe- 
less, the size of the initial drop was 
restricted by the number of troop carrier 
aircraft available in the theater. Only 
about half the troops of the three airborne 
divisions could be transported in one lift. 
Naturally anxious that all their strength 
arrive on D-Day, the division commanders 
asked that the planes fly more than one 
mission the first day. They pointed to 
the importance of bringing all troops into 
the corridor before the enemy could rein- 
force his antiaircraft defenses or launch an 
organized ground assault. For their part, 
the troop carrier commanders dissented. 
Flying more than one mission per aircraft, 
they said, would afford insufficient time 
between missions for spot maintenance, 
repair of battle damage, and rest for the 



37 XVIII Corps, Rpt of Abn Phase, 101st 
Abn Div, and A Graphic Account of the 82d 
Airborne Division; FAAA, Opns in Holland; 
Hq Br Abn Corps, Opn Instr 1 and 2, 13 and 14 
Sep 44, Allied Abn Opns in Holland. 

38 In Operation Varsity, launched in the spring 
of 1945, more planes, gliders, and troops were in- 
volved on D-Day than in Operation Market, but 
additional airborne troops flown in on subsequent 
days made Market the larger operation. For details 
on Varsity, see The Last Offensive, a volume in 
preparation for the series UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. 



crews. High casualties among the airmen 
might be the result. If weather remained 
favorable, they pointed out, and if combat 
aircraft assumed some of the resupply 
missions, the troop carriers might fly but 
one mission daily and still transport three 
and a half divisions by D plus 2. 

Although it meant taking a chance on 
enemy reaction and on the weather, Gen- 
eral Brereton sided with the troop carrier 
commanders. He decided on one lift per 
day. Although subsequent planning indi- 
cated that it would in fact take four days 
to convey the divisions, General Brereton 
stuck by his decision. 39 

The D-Day lift would be sufficient for 
transporting the advance headquarters of 
the British Airborne Corps, the three 
parachute regiments of both the 82 d and 
10 1st Airborne Divisions, and three major 
increments of the 1st Airborne Division: 
a parachute brigade, an air landing bri- 
gade, and a regiment of air landing 
artillery. Enough space remained in the 
first lift to permit the division commanders 
a degree of flexibility in choosing small 
units of supporting troops to go in on 
D-Day. In the second lift, on D plus 1, 
the remainder of the British airborne di- 
vision was to reach Arnhem, the 101st 
was to get its glider infantry regiment, the 
82d its airborne artillery, and both Ameri- 
can divisions another fraction of their 
supporting troops. On D plus 2, despite 
anticipated demands of resupply, the 1st 
Polish Parachute Brigade was to join the 
British at Arnhem, the 82d was to get its 
glider infantry, and the 101st was to 



39 FAAA, Opns in Holland; Hq Br Abn 
Corps, Allied Abn Opns in Holland; Mont- 
gomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 227; de 
Guingand, Operation Victory, p. 415. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



133 



receive its artillery. On the fourth day 
the tails of all divisions might arrive. 40 

For the D-Day lift the 101st Airborne 
Division was allotted 424 American para- 
chute aircraft and 70 gliders and tugs, 
while the 82 d Airborne Division was to 
employ 480 troop carriers and 50 gliders 
and tugs. The 1st Airborne Division was 
to have 145 American carriers, 354 British 
and 4 American gliders, and 358 British 
tugs. Variance in the number of para- 
chute and glider craft assigned the British 
and American divisions stemmed primarily 
from organizational differences. The var- 
iations between the American divisions 
were attributable to differences in objec- 
tives and proposed tactical employment. 
The 101st, for example, was to use the 
second lift to build up infantry strength, 
while the 8 2d, in anticipation of a longer 
fight before contact with the ground 
column, was to concentrate on artillery. 
Some elements of all divisions not immedi- 
ately needed were to travel by sea and 
thence overland in wake of the ground 
column. 41 

While the airborne planning proceeded 
in England, planning and preparation for 
the companion piece, Operation Garden, 
progressed on the Continent under Gen- 
eral Dempsey's Second British Army. 
The 30 Corps under Lt. Gen. Brian G. 
Horrocks was to strike the first blow on 
the ground an hour after the first para- 

40 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 
227; Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, 
Jr., Rendezvous With Destiny, A History of the 
101st Airborne Division (Washington: Combat 
Forces Press, 1948), pp. 256-57, one of the best 
of the division histories; XVIII Corps, A Graphic 
Account of the 82d Abn Div; Hq Br Abn Corps, 
Allied Abn Opns in Holland; 1st Abn Div Rpt 
on Opn Market, Pt. 1. 

41 FAAA, Opns in Holland; Hq Br Abn Corps, 
Opns Instrs 1 and 2, 13 and 14 Sep 44, Allied 
Abn Opns in Holland. 



chutists jumped. As soon as logistics and 
regrouping might permit, the 8 and 12 
Corps were to attack along either flank of 
the 30 Corps and gradually were to 
assume responsibility for the flanks of the 
salient created by the main attack. The 
advance of these two corps obviously 
would be affected by the strained logistical 
situation, by belts of marshy terrain 
crossed by few improved roads leading 
northward, and by the weakness of the 8 
Corps, on the right, which would possess 
at first only one division. 

The start line for the main attack by the 
30 Corps was the periphery of the bridge- 
head north of the Meuse-Escaut Canal 
beyond De Groote Barrier, thirteen miles 
below Eindhoven. By moving behind a 
heavy curtain of artillery fire and fighter 
bomber attacks, General Horrocks hoped 
to achieve a quick breakthrough with the 
Guards Armoured Division, supported by 
the 43d and 50th Infantry Divisions. 

In his formal orders, General Horrocks 
assigned the armor a D-Day objective of 
the village of Valkenswaard, six miles 
short of Eindhoven, which was the desig- 
nated point of contact with the 101st 
Airborne Division. 42 Yet General Hor- 
rocks said informally that he hoped to be 
in Eindhoven before nightfall on D-Day. 43 
Certainly the corps commander's aside 
was more in keeping with Field Marshal 
Montgomery's directive that the ground 
thrust be "rapid and violent, and without 
regard to what is happening on the 
flanks." 44 In the same manner, a D-Day 
objective of Eindhoven rather than Valk- 

42 See extracts from Guards Armd Div Opns 
Order i2j 21 A Gp, Opn Market-Garden, 
17-26 Sep 44, SHAEF FAAA files. 

43 As quoted in Combat Interv with Col 
Curtis D. Renfro, Liaison Officer, 101st Abn Div. 

44 21 A Gp Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, M-525, 
14 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



134 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



enswaard was more realistic if General 
Horrocks was to succeed in expectations 
of reaching Arnhem "before the end of D 
plus 3" and of attaining the IJsselmeer, 
ninety-nine miles from his start line, in 
"six days or less." 45 

Directing that vehicles advance two 
abreast along the single highway through 
Eindhoven to Arnhem, General Horrocks 
prohibited southbound traffic. Over this 
highway to Arnhem, he told a briefing 
conference, he intended to pass 20,000 
vehicles in sixty hours. Yet the British 
commander hardly could have been as 
sanguine as he appeared, judging from 
questions he asked later, in private. 
"How many days rations will they jump 
with? How long can they hold out? 
How many days will they be supplied by 
air?" 46 

What Did the Germans Know? 

In hope of deceiving the Germans into 
believing that the Allied supply situation 
denied offensive action other than that 
already under way by the First and Third 
U.S. Armies, the British withdrew their 
advance patrols, in some cases as much as 
ten miles. They might have spared them- 
selves the trouble. The Germans already 
had noted with apprehension a "constant 
stream" of reinforcements concentrating 
behind the right wing of the Second 
British Army. From 9 to 14 September 
the intelligence officer of Field Marshal 



45 Renfro Interv. 

40 Ibid. Other sources for British ground 
planning are: 21 A Gp, Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, 
M-525; Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, 
p. 229; Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, The Brereton 
Diaries (New York: William Morrow and Com- 
pany, 1946) ; Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns 
in Holland, especially Instr No. 2, 14 Sep 44; 21 
A Gp Opn Market-Garden. 



Model's Army Group B issued daily warn- 
ings of an imminent British offensive, prob- 
ably to be launched in the direction of 
Nijmegen, Arnhem, and Wesel. The 
objective: the Ruhr. 47 

Projecting himself with facility into the 
position of the Allied high command, the 
Army Group B G-2 on 14 September put 
imaginary words into the mouth of General 
Eisenhower in the form of a mythical 
order: 

. . . The Second British Army [he imagined 
the Supreme Allied Commander to say] will 
assemble its units at the Maas-Scheldt 
[Meuse-Escaut] and Albert Canals. On its 
right wing it will concentrate an attack force 
mainly composed of armored units, and, 
after forcing a Maas crossing (see order to 
First U.S. Army), will launch operations to 
break through to the Rhenish- Westphalian 
Industrial Area [Ruhr] with the main effort 
via Roermond. To cover the northern 
flank, the left wing of the [Second British] 
Army will close to the Waal at Nijmegen, 
and thus create the basic conditions neces- 
sary to cut off the German forces committed 
in the Dutch coastal areas [the Fifteenth 
Army].* 8 

As far as the ground picture was con- 
cerned, this German intelligence officer 
should have been decorated for his 
perspicacity. The British actually had 
intended earlier to do as the German G-2 
predicted, to strike close along the left 
flank of the First U.S. Army to cross the 
Rhine near Wesel. But the introduction 
of Operation Market had altered this 
concept drastically. 

The German conception of what the 
Allies would do with their airborne reserve 
was far more daring than anything the 

47 A Gp B G-2 Rpts, 9, 11, and 14 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Anlagen, Ic/AO [G-2], i.VII.- 
31.XII.44 (hereafter cited as A Gp B KTB, 
Ic/AO; OB WEST KTB (Text), 12 Sep 44- 

48 Assumed Eisenhower Order, A Gp B G-2 
Rpt, 14 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Ic/AO. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



135 



Allies actually considered. Even though 
the Germans on the basis of purely stra- 
tegic considerations expected an airborne 
operation about mid-September and even 
though they had a long-time paratrooper 
in command of the sector the Allies had 
chosen (First Parachute Army's General 
Student ) , they could not see the southern 
part of the Netherlands as a likely spot. 
In putting words into the mouth of 
General Eisenhower, the Army Group B 
G-2, for example, predicted airborne op- 
erations in conjunction with the ground 
offensive which he outlined, but he 
looked far beyond the Netherlands to a 
spot fifty miles east of the Rhine. 49 

As incredible as an operation like this 
might have appeared to the Allies at the 
time, the Germans saw no fantasy in it. 
Indeed, a step higher up the ladder of 
German command, at OB WEST, Field 
Marshal von Rundstedt endorsed the view 
that the Allies would use their airborne 
troops east of the Rhine. 50 Even within 
Hitler's inner circle of advisers, none saw 
disparity between this prediction and re- 
ality. On the very eve of Market- 
Garden, the chief of the Armed Forces 
Operations Staff, Generaloberst Alfred 
Jodl, voiced his concern about possible 
airborne landings in the northern part of 
the Netherlands, northern Germany, and 
Denmark. 51 



49 "In conjunction with [the Second British 
Army's attack]," the G-2 noted in his mythical 
order, "a large-scale airborne landing by the First 
Allied Airborne Army north of the Lippe River in 
the area south of Muenster is planned for an as 
yet indefinite date . . . ." Ibid. Eight days 
earlier this same G-2 had predicted, more con- 
servatively, airborne operations near Aachen and 
in the Saar region. Summary Estimate of Allied 
Situation, 6 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Ic/AO. 

50 OB WEST KTB {Text), 15 Sep 44. 

51 MS # P-069, The Kreipe Diary (General- 
leutnant Werner Kreipe). 



Thinking independently of his G-2, the 
Army Group B commander, Field Mar- 
shal Model, strayed equally far from 
reality, but with results not unfavorable to 
the Germans. Having received a report 
on 1 1 September that the Allies were 
assembling landing craft in British ports, 
Model reasoned that this meant a sea- 
borne invasion of the Netherlands. 52 Re- 
ports as late as the morning of 17 Septem- 
ber, D-Day for Operation Market, of 
"conspicuously active" sea and air recon- 
naissance of the Wadden Islands off the 
Dutch coast fed both Model's and 
Rundstedt's apprehension. 53 Both believed 
that the Allies would drop airborne troops 
in conjunction with a seaborne invasion. 
Even as Allied paratroopers and glidermen 
were winging toward the Netherlands, 
Rundstedt was ordering a thorough study 
of the sea- and air-landing possibilities in 
northern Holland. The results were to be 
reported to Hitler. 54 

As for Field Marshal Model, he had 
gone Rundstedt one better. As early as 
1 1 September, Model had alerted General 
Christiansen, the Armed Forces Com- 
mander Netherlands, and ordered him to 
defend the coast of the Netherlands with 
all forces at his disposal. Model went so 
far as to order that mobile interceptor 
units be formed from various forces, 
including elements of the // SS Panzer 



52 See Order, A Gp B to Armed Forces Comdr 
Netherlands, 01 15, 11 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Ic/AO. 

53 Daily G-2 Rpt for 15 Sep 44, 0015, 16 Sep 
44, OB WEST KTB, Anlagen, I c-T agesmel- 
dungen [Daily G-2 Rpts], 1. VII. -30. -IX. 44 
(hereafter cited as OB WEST KTB, Ic-Tages- 
meldungen) ; OB WEST KTB (Text), 17 
Sep 44. 

54 OB WEST KTB (Text), 17 Sep 44. 



136 



THE SIEGFRIED, LINE CAMPAIGN 



Corps that had been sent to the Nether- 
lands for rehabilitation. 55 

No indications existed to show that this 
order had any effect on the actual Allied 
attack. Another order, however, issued 
to provide Army Group B a reserve, did 
serve the Germans well. This was a di- 
rective from Model on 12 September 
transferring the 59/ h Division (General 
Poppe) from the Fifteenth Army to the 
sector of the First Parachute Army. 56 
As a result, the $gth Division was in 
transit near Tilburg, seventeen miles 
northwest of Eindhoven, when the first 
Allied parachutists dropped. This good 
fortune — plus the chance presence of the 
II SS Panzer Corps near Arnhem — was 
all the more singular because not only 
Model but no other German commander, 
including Hitler, had so much as an 
inkling of the true nature, scope, or 
location of the impending Allied airborne 
operation. 57 

55 Order, A Gp B to Armed Forces Comdr 
Netherlands, 1 1 Sep 44. 

56 OB WEST KTB {Text), 12 Sep 44. 

57 Oreste Pinto, Spy Catcher (New York: 
Harper & Brothers, 1952), maintains that pres- 
ence of the SS divisions near Arnhem was the 
result of a betrayal of the Market-Garden plan 
before the event by a Dutch traitor. The theory 
has no basis in fact. It ignores German surprise 
at the landings as well as the fact that Model 
ordered the SS divisions to the Netherlands on 3 
September, before the Allies even considered a 
plan like Market-Garden. The divisions were, 
in fact, ordered to Arnhem as the first step in 
later commitment of them in the Ardennes 
counteroffensive, an operation which Hitler had 
already decided upon. A retired Dutch army 
officer, Col. Th. A. Boeree, has prepared a point- 
by-point refutation of the betrayal story and has 
provided a copy of his findings, entitled The 
Truth About the Supposed Spy at Arnhem, for 
OCMH. A commission of inquiry of the Nether- 
lands Lower House has reported its findings on 
the matter in the fourth volume of its proceed- 
ings (Staten-Generaal Tweede Kamer Enquete- 
commissie Regeringsbeleid ig40-ig45, Volume 



The Flight to the Corridor 

Back in England, troops not already on 
the airfields began to assemble on 15 
September and were sealed in at daylight 
the next morning. At headquarters of 
General Browning's British Airborne 
Corps, the general belief, as recalled later, 
was "that the flight and landings would 
be hazardous, that the capture intact of 
th& bridge objectives was more a matter 
of surprise and confusion than hard fight- 
ing, that the advance of the ground forces 
would be very swift if the airborne opera- 
tions were successful, and that, in these 
circumstances, the considerable dispersion 
of the airborne forces was acceptable. 58 

The troops themselves underwent the 
inescapable apprehensions that precede 
almost any military operation. In spite of 
their status as veterans, their fears were in 
many instances magnified for Operation 
Market. Not only were they to drop far 
behind enemy lines; they were to fly for a 
half hour or more over enemy territory 
and land in the full light of day. Neither 
of these had they done before. 59 

Armed with forecasts for favorable 
weather, General Brereton at 1900 on 16 



IV, 's-Gravenhage, 1950). Interrogated under 
oath by the commission, Mr. Pinto was unable 
to substantiate his conclusions. (Enquetecom- 
missie 4c, pp. 1581-91). See also C. T. de Jong, 
"La Pretendue trahison d'Arnhem," Revue 
d'Histoire de la Deuxieme Guerre Mondiale 
(January 1955), pp. 1 10-12. 

58 Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in 
Holland; FAAA, Opns in Holland. By disper- 
sion, the British apparently referred to the 
extreme depth of the airborne penetration. 
American officers had found unacceptable an 
original plan that involved considerable disper- 
sion of drop zones within division sectors and 
had insisted upon changes. See Ltrs, McAuliffe 
and Gavin to OCMH, 8 Feb and 17 Jan 54. 

59 This attitude is reflected clearly in the 505th 
Parachute Infantry AAR. 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



137 



September made the final, irrevocable de- 
cision. D-Day was the next day, 17 
September. H Hour was 13 00. 60 

The campaign began that night when 
the Royal Air Force Bomber Command 
started a program to eliminate as much as 
possible of the enemy's antiaircraft de- 
fense while at the same time concealing 
the fact that anything unusual was in the 
offing. A force of 200 Lancasters and 23 
Mosquitoes dropped some 890 tons of 
bombs on German airfields from which 
fighters might threaten gliders and C-47's. 
Another force of 59 planes struck by 
night at a flak position. In each case, the 
pilots reported good results. Particularly 
effective was a strike against an airfield 
where the enemy's new Messerschmitt 262 
jet aircraft were based. So cratered were 
the runways after the RAF raid that no 
jets could take off on 17 September. 61 

Early on D-Day morning, 100 British 
bombers escorted by Spitfires renewed the 
assault by bombing three coastal defense 
batteries along the northern air route. 
As time pressed close for the coming of the 
troop carriers, 816 Flying Fortresses of 
the Eighth Air Force, escorted by P-51's, 
took up the fight. They dropped 3,139 
tons of bombs on 1 1 7 flak positions along 
both the northern and southern routes. 
Six other B-17's hit an airfield at Eind- 
hoven. Including escorts, 435 British and 
983 American planes participated in the 
preliminary bombardment. Only 2 B- 
17's, 2 Lancasters, and 3 other British 
planes were lost. 



60 FAAA, Opns in Holland. 

01 OB WEST KTB (Text), 17 Sep 44. The 
air phase of Operation Market is covered in 
more detail in Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: 
Argument to V-E Day, pp. 598-611, and in 
Warren, Airborne Operations in World War II, 
passim. 



To weave a protective screen about the 
two great trains of troop carriers, 1,131 
Allied fighters took to the air. Along the 
northern route, a British command, 
Air Defense of Great Britain, pro- 
vided 371 Tempests, Spitfires, and Mos- 
quitoes. Along the southern route, the 
Eighth Air Force employed 548 P-47's, 
P-38's, and P-51's. Adding to the total, 
the Ninth Air Force employed 212 planes 
against flak positions near the front lines 
along the Dutch-Belgian border. 

All flights got an invaluable assist from 
the weather. Overland fog at the air- 
fields in England had cleared by 0900. 
Over the North Sea and the Continent the 
weather was fair with a slight haze. 
Visibility varied from four to six miles. 
Had the day been tailor-made it hardly 
could have been better for an airborne 
operation. 

Beginning at 1025 on Sunday morning, 
17 September, 12 British and 6 American 
transport planes flew into the east to drop 
Pathfinder teams on drop and landing 
zones 20 minutes before H-Hour. Close 
behind them, from the stationary air- 
craft carrier that England had become, 
swarmed the greatest armada of troop- 
carrying aircraft ever before assembled for 
one operation. 82 

A force of 1,545 transport planes and 
478 gliders took off that day from 24 
airfields in the vicinity of Swinden, New- 
bury, and Grantham. 63 Converging' at 
rendezvous points near the British coast, 
the streams of aircraft split into two great 
trains to cross the North Sea. Along the 



62 FAAA, Opns in Holland. 

63 American planes: 1,175; British planes: 
370; American gliders: 124; British gliders: 354. 
For the air routes, see Craven and Cate, eds., 
Europe: Argument to V-E Day, map opposite 
p. 602. 



138 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



northern route went the planes and gliders 
carrying the ist and 82d Airborne Divi- 
sions and General Browning's corps head- 
quarters. Along the southern route went 
the ioist Airborne Division. Beacons and 
searchlight cones marked both rendezvous 
points and points of departure from the 
coast, while two marker boats fixed the 
routes over the North Sea. 64 

A small percentage of planes and gliders 
aborted over England and the sea. To 
save personnel who ditched in the sea, the 
Air/Sea Rescue Service, a component of 
Air Defense of Great Britain, had placed 
a string of seventeen launches along the 
northern route and ten along the shorter 
southern route. In addition, planes of Air 
Defense of Great Britain, the British 
Coastal Command, and the Eighth Air 
Force flew as spotters for ditched planes 
and gliders. During the course of Opera- 
tion Market, a total of 205 men were 
snatched from the sea. 

The average time of flight from base to 
target area on D-Day was two and a half 
hours. From thirty to fifty minutes of 
this time was spent over enemy territory. 

Once the planes and gliders on the 
northern route reached the Dutch coast, 
they attracted flak ranging from light to 
heavy; but few aircraft were hit. Many 
German batteries were silent, victims of 
the preliminary bombardment. Others 
gave in quickly to ubiquitous British escort 
craft. 

Along the southern route the ioist 
Airborne Division encountered concen- 



64 A comprehensive report on the intricate 
details of planning and operating the troop 
carrier units may be found in IX Troop Carrier 
Command, Air Invasion of Holland. Unless 
specifically cited, other sources for this section are 
FAAA, Opns in Holland, and Hq Br Abn Corps, 
Allied Abn Opns in Holland. 



trated flak as soon as the planes headed 
across German lines. One of the Path- 
finder planes was hit and crashed. Some 
of the lower-flying planes and gliders in 
the main waves drew small arms fire. 
Although some serials escaped the flak 
almost without losses, others incurred 
severe damage. Yet few crippled planes 
fell before reaching the targets and releas- 
ing their loads. The paratroopers had 
unqualified praise for pilots who held 
doggedly to their courses, sometimes with 
motors in flames or wings broken and 
often at the price of their own lives after 
passengers or gliders had been released. 
No instance of a pilot resorting to evasive 
action under the stress of antiaircraft fire 
came to light on D-Day. 

Luftwaffe reaction was hesitant, al- 
most nonexistent. Although Allied pilots 
spotted approximately 30 German planes, 
only one group of about 15 Focke-Wulf 
190's dared to attack. These engaged a 
group of Eighth Air Force fighters over 
Wesel but quickly gave up after shooting 
down but 1 U.S. fighter, hardly fair ex- 
change for the loss of 7 German planes. 

The airmen executed two other missions 
on D-Day. Almost at H-Hour, 84 Brit- 
ish planes of the 2d Tactical Air Force 
attacked German barracks at Nijmegen, 
Arnhem, and two nearby cities; and after 
nightfall the RAF Bomber Command 
executed two dummy parachute drops 
with 10 aircraft each at points several miles 
to both east and west of the actual drop 
zones. 

Planning staffs for Operation Market 
had been prepared to accept losses in 
transport aircraft and gliders as high as 30 
percent. In reality, losses were a phe- 
nomenally low 2.8 percent. The enemy 
shot down not one plane or glider carrying 
the British airborne division and knocked 



OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN 



139 



out only 35 American troop carriers and 
13 gliders, most of them along the south- 
ern route. Of the escort, the British lost 
2 planes, the Americans 18. Total losses 
in transports, gliders, and fighters were 68. 
Out of a total of 4,676 transports, gliders, 
fighters, and bombers that participated on 
D Day, only 75 craft failed to get through. 

Almost exactly at H-Hour transports 
in the leading serials began to disgorge 
their loads in the beginning of what was 
to become the most successful drop any of 
the three airborne divisions ever had 
staged, either in combat or training. 
British landings were almost 100 percent 
on the correct drop and landing zones. 
The 82d Airborne Division's landings were 
"without exception" the best in the divi- 
sion's history. The 101st Airborne Divi- 
sion's operation was a "parade ground 
jump" that from any viewpoint was the 



most successful the division had ever 
had. 65 

A total of 331 British aircraft and 319 
gliders and 1,150 American planes and 106 
gliders got through. Within an hour and 
twenty minutes, approximately 20,000 
American and British troops landed by 
parachute and glider in good order far 
behind enemy lines. The unparalleled 
success of the drops and landings made it 
clear early that the decision for a daylighl 
operation had been, under the circum- 
stances, a happy one. Up to this point, 
the Allies had staged an overwhelming 
success. 



65 Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous With 
Destiny, pp. 260, 268; Ltr, Gavin to Maj Gen 
Paul L. Williams, reproduced in IX Troop Carrier 
Comd, Air Invasion of Holland; 1st Abn Div, 
Rpt on Opn Market, Pt. 1. 



CHAPTER VII 

Invasion From the Sky 



Along a fifty-mile corridor extending 
from Eindhoven to Arnhem the sky in 
early afternoon of 17 September grew dark 
with a fecund cloud of planes and gliders. 
A minute or so after 1300, the cloud 
opened and seeded the sky. 

"a remarkably beautiful late summer day" 

Thousands of Dutch civilians craned to 
see the show. As many a soldier has come 
to know, civilians in a war zone possess a 
kind of sixth sense that tells them when 
to parade the streets and when to seek 
shelter. Those civilians paraded the 
streets. Most were strolling casually 
home from church. Others had sat down 
to Sunday dinners. Here and there, at 
once a part of the crowd and yet isolated, 
strolled German soldiers absorbing the 
sunshine and rest of a day away from their 
posts. Until the planes came, none knew 
17 September as anything but another 
occupation Sunday. 

From battalions on the scene to the 
Fuehrer's spartan command post in East 
Prussia, surprise in German headquarters 
was equally great. An SS battalion com- 
mander was entertaining an intimate lady 
friend. Upon first sight of the parachutes, 
the occupation "mayor" of Arnhem 
dashed out on a personal reconnaissance, 
only to take a British bullet for his 
troubles. The Armed Forces Commander 
Netherlands, General Christiansen, was 
dining leisurely with his chief of staff at a 



restaurant far from the scene near Am- 
sterdam. 1 

The commander of the First Parachute 
Army, General Student, was at his desk 
in his command post in a cottage only nine 
miles west of one of the designated Ameri- 
can drop zones. To Student the appear- 
ance of the Allied armada came as a 
"complete surprise." 

The 17th of September, 1944 [General 
Student recalled later] was a Sunday, a re- 
markably beautiful late summer day. All 
was quiet at the front. Late in the morning 
the enemy air force suddenly became very 
active .... From my command post at 
Vught I was able to observe numerous enemy 
aircraft; I could hear the crash of bombs 
and fire from air craft armaments and anti- 
aircraft guns in my immediate vicinity .... 
At noon there came the endless stream of 
enemy transport and cargo planes, as far as 
the eye could see . . . . 2 

While Student had a front row seat, his 
superior, Field Marshal Model, sat virtu- 
ally upon the stage. Model's headquar- 
ters of Army Group B was in a hotel at 
Oosterbeek on the western outskirts of 
Arnhem. Parachutists and gliders of the 
1 st British Airborne Division came to 
earth about two miles away. Unaware of 
this ripe chance to capture the commander 

1 Boeree, The Truth About the Supposed Spy 
at Arnhem, provides an informative, well- 
documented trip around various German head- 
quarters at the time of the Allied strike. 

2 MS # B-717 (Student). German clock time 
was an hour behind the British Summer Time 
used by the Allies. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 

and entire staff of Army Croup B, the 
British made no immediate move against 
the hotel. Model and his coterie folded 
their tents and stole away. They did not 
stop until they reached headquarters of 
the // SS Panzer Corps beyond the IJssel 
River about eighteen miles east of Arn- 
hem. 3 

In East Prussia, first reports of the 
airborne landings threw Hitler's head- 
quarters into a state of high excitement. 
Although report after report came in, the 
over-all picture remained obscure. Only 
highlights emerged. 

Hitler's personal reaction could best be 
described as febrile. The narrow escape 
of Model and his staff from the British at 
Oosterbcck appeared to impress him most 
at first. "At any rate," Hitler raged, 
"the business is so dangerous that you 
must understand clearly, if such a mess 
happens here — here I sit with my whole 
supreme command; here sit the Rcichs- 
marschall [Goering], the OKH, the 
Reichsfuehrer SS [Himmler], the Reich 
Foreign Minister [Ribbentrop] : Well, 
then, this is the most worthwhile catch, 
that's obvious. I would not hesitate to 
risk two parachute divisions here if with 
one blow I could get my hands on the 
whole German command." * 

During the first hour or two, no Ger- 
man commander could begin to estimate 
the scope and strength of the Allied 
operation. Reports and rumors of land- 
ings at almost every conceivable spot in 
the Netherlands spread through every 
headquarters.* As late as the next day 
OB WEST still was excited enough to 

3 MSS # T-tai, T-I32 (Zimmennann tt 
ctl.). 

* Minutes of Hitler Conferences, 17 Sep 44 
(Fragment No. 43). Copy of transcribed notes 
in OCMH. 

5 MS # T-taa (Zimmermann et al.). 



141 




General Student 



pass along the fantastic report that a U.S. 
airborne division had landed at Warsaw, 
Poland. 6 

By a stroke of luck for the enemy, this 
kind of delirium was not to last long at 
the lower headquarters. Someone in an 
American glider that was shot down near 
the First Parachute Army's command post 
was ca trying a copy of the Allied opera- 
tional order. Two hours after the first 
parachute had blossomed, this order was 
on General Student's desk. 7 

Having the Allied objectives and dis- 
positions at hand obviously facilitated 

8 Tel Conv, G-3 OB WEST to G-3 A Gp B, 
1905, 18 Sep 44, in A Gp B KTB (Text) 
(Rommel Papers). 

7 MS # B-717 (Student). Though no con- 
firmation of this event is to be found in American 
records, there appears no reason to question 
Student's recollection. 



142 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



German reaction. Possibly as a result of 
the captured Allied order, Field Marshal 
Model divided the affected zone into three 
sectors corresponding roughly to the sec- 
tors of the three Allied divisions. 

To General Student and the First Para- 
chute Army Model gave the dual mission 
of containing the British ground offensive 
opposite the Meuse-Escaut bridgehead 
and of destroying the ioist Airborne 
Division in the vicinity of Eindhoven. 
(See Map IV.) Already committed along 
the Meuse-Escaut, Kampfgruppe Chill 
was to oppose the British ground troops. 
For fighting the Americans, Model gave 
Student the mgth Infantry Division, so 
fortuitously in transit near Tilburg, and 
the iojth Panzer Brigade? Under com- 
mand of Major Freiherr von Maltzahn, 
this panzer brigade had been en route to 
Aachen to engage the First U.S. Army. 9 

The job of contesting the 82d Airborne 
Division at Nijmegen fell to Wehrkreis VI, 
the rear echelon German headquarters 
which controlled Corps Feldt and the 
406th (Landesschuetzen) Division. These 
Wehrkreis units were ordered to destroy 
the airborne troops along the high ground 
southeast of Nijmegen, seize and hold the 
rail and road bridges across the Waal 
River at Nijmegen, and stand by for 
continued operations "in a southerly direc- 
tion." Model must have recognized this 
as a pretty big assignment for a makeshift 
force like Corps Feldt; for he advised 
Wehrkreis VI that he intended shifting to 
Nijmegen corps troops and increments of 
parachute troops under General der 
Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl, com- 
mander of the II Parachute Corps. Yet 
this help obviously could not arrive 



8 Order, A Gp B to First Prcht Army, 2315, 
17 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 
'■> OB WEST KTB (Text), 15 and 16 Sep 44. 



immediately, for General Meindl's head- 
quarters would have to move from 
Cologne. 10 

Whether from design or merely because 
the troops were at hand, Model sent 
stronger forces against the British at Arn- 
hem. To General Christiansen as Armed 
Forces Commander Netherlands he gave a 
task of attacking toward Arnhem from the 
northwest and north. General Christian- 
sen would have at his disposal Division 
von Tettau, a collection of regional defense 
and training battalions quickly thrown 
together under command of General- 
leutnant Hans von Tettau, Christiansen's 
director of operations and training. In 
the meantime General Bittrich's II SS 
Panzer Corps with the gth and 10th SS 
Panzer Divisions was to move toward 
Arnhem. After the bridge across the 
Neder Rijn at Arnhem was secure, the 
10th SS Panzer Division was to continue 
south to Nijmegen. The panzer corps 
was to be reinforced with a motorized 
infantry battalion commandeered from 
Wehrkreis VI, even though that head- 
quarters could ill afford to part with 
anything. 11 

Bearing the proud names Hohenstaufen 
and Frundsberg, the two SS panzer divi- 
sions under Bittrich's command were 
drastically depleted. Badly mauled at 
Caen and in the Argentan-Falaise pocket, 
the two divisions apparently had the 

10 Order, A Gp B to Wehrkreis VI, 2315, 17 
Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle; OB 
WEST KTB (Text), 17 Sep 44. 

11 Orders, A Gp B to Armed Forces Comdr 
Netherlands, 2215, and II SS Pz Corps, 2315, 17 
Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle; an- 
swers by Bittrich to questionnaire prepared by 
Colonel Boeree, 1955, copy in OCMH through 
courtesy of Colonel Boeree (hereafter cited as 
Bittrich Questionnaire). Bittrich notes that 
Model's orders to the II SS Panzer Corps were 
merely in confirmation of measures which he him- 
self already had taken. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 

strength only of reinforced regiments. The. 
gth SS Panzer was the stronger with i 
armored infantry regiment, 1 artillery bat- 
talion, 2 assault gun batteries, t recon- 
naissance battalion, i company of Panther 
(Mark V) tanks, and increments of 
engineers and antiaircraft troops. The 
ioth SS Panzer probably had i armored 
infantry regiment, 2 artillery battalions, 1 
reconnaissance battalion, 1 engineer bat- 
talion, and 1 antiaircraft battalion. 12 

Confronted with a dearth of reserves all 
along the Western Front, the Commander 
in Chief West, Rundstedt, could do little 
immediately to help. About all Rund- 
stedt could contribute on the first day was 
approval for rerouting from Aachen the 
loyth Panzer Brigade and another unit, 
the 280th Assault Gun Brigade; but these 
obviously could not reach the threatened 
sector for a day or two. As for FHder, 
he had to content himself for the moment 
with somewhat empty orders to throw all 
available Luftwaffe fighters into the fray 
and with bemoaning the Luftwaffe's fail- 
ure to set everything right. The entire 
Luftwaffe was incompetent, cowardly, the 
Fuehrer raged. The Luftwaffe had de- 
serted him. 13 



1 - Strength of these two divisions on 1 7 Sep- 
tember is a matter of some conjecture. Neither 
of the usual sources (records of the 
General Inspekteur det Panzertruppen and OKH. 
'Austandberichte, SS-Verbaende— Strength Re- 
ports of SS units) is rewarding in this instance. 
Figures given are based upon the Bittrich Ques- 
tionnaire, copy in OCMH. Wilmot, The Strug- 
gle for Europe, page 533 and 33 an, says the 
divisions each had the "the strength of a brigade 
plus some thirty tanks and assault guns/'' Al- 
though Wilmot provides no direct source for this 
information, he notes that Rundstedt's chief of 
staff (Westphal) "was as surprised as the Allies 
to find that II SS Earner Cor pi had so much 
armor."' 

"MS # P-o6 9 (Kreipe). 



143 




General Taylor 



Hell's Highway 

On the Allied side, from the moment 
men of the toist Airborne Division came 
to earth on ly September, they began to 
fight a battle for a road. Theirs was the 
responsibility for a 15-mile segment of 
narrow concrete and macadam ribbon 
stretching northward and northeastward 
from Eindhoven in the direction of Grave. 
That segment men of the division were to 
nickname Hell's Highway. 11 



1 1 The Screaming Eagles of the lOist Airborne 
Division saw their first combat on D Day in 
Normandy. Before Operation Market, the di- 
vision's three organic parachute regiments had 
been augmented by attachment of the 506 th 
Parachute Infantry. Unless otherwise noted, 
this account is based on official unit records and 
extensive combat interviews: on Rapport and 
North wood. Rendezvous With Destiny, and on 
two preliminary manuscripts at a small unit level 
prepared by Col S. L. A. Marshall, Parachute 
Battalion in Holland and Parachute Infantry at 
Best. Copies in OCMH. 



144 THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




10 1st Airborne Division Landings near fyn. 



The objectives vital for subsequent pas- 
sage of the British ground column were 
located at intervals along the entire 
15-mile stretch of road. This meant that 
a lightly manned and armed airborne 
division would be widely extended in tak- 
ing and defending the objectives. The 
division commander, Maj. Gen. Maxwell 
D. Taylor, later was to compare the 
situation to the early American West, 
where small garrisons had to contend with 
sudden Indian attacks at any point along 
great stretches of vital railroad. 

The dispersion of the toist Airborne 
Division's objectives made sense only in 
light of the expectation of early contact 
with the British ground column, probably 
within twenty-four hours after the jump. 
With tlris and the widely separated objec- 
tives in mind, General Taylor concentrated 
in his early lifts upon bringing in his 
infantry rather than his artillery. Cen- 
trally located artillery of the caliber 
available to airborne troops, he reasoned, 



could not reach targets on the extremities 
of his division. The number of objectives 
meant that the perimeter defenses about 
them would be so small that guns emplaced 
within the perimeters could render no 
more than limited service. Infantry and 
mortars were to do the work at first along 
Hell's Highway. 

Recalling dispersion that had plagued 
the division in Normandy, General Taylor 
insisted upon drop zones fairly close 
together, no matter how scattered the 
objectives. Two regimental drop zones 
and the division landing zone were located 
near the center of the division sector, west 
of Hell's Highway in a triangle marked by 
the villages of Zon, St. Oedenrode, and 
Best. Dropping close to Zon, the 506th 
Parachute Infantry (Col. Robert F. Sink) 
was to secure a highway bridge over the 
Wilhclmina Canal a few hundred yards 
south of Zon, then was to march south on 
Eindhoven. Coming to earth just to the 
north, the 503d Parachute Infantry (Col, 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



145 



John H. Michaelis) was to guard both 
drop zones in order to ensure their use as 
a glider landing zone and was to capture 
a road bridge over the Dommel River at 
St. Oedenrode. Because General Taylor 
believed his over-all position might be 
strengthened by possession of bridges over 
the Wilhelmina Canal south of Best, four 
miles from Zon off the west flank of Hell's 
Highway, Colonel Michaelis was to send a 
company to these bridges. The remaining 
parachute regiment, the 501st Parachute 
Infantry (Col. Howard R. Johnson), was 
to drop a few miles farther north near 
Veghel to seize rail and road bridges over 
the Willems Canal and the Aa River. 

Despite flak and small arms fire, only 1 
Pathfinder plane and 2 of the other 424 
parachute aircraft of the 101st Airborne 
Division failed to reach the drop zones, 
although some planes went down after the 
paratroopers had jumped. Incurring cas- 
ualties of less than 2 percent in personnel 
and 5 percent in equipment, 6,769 men 
made the jump. They did it in half an 
hour beginning three minutes after H- 
Hour, at 1303. Among the casualties 
was 1 man killed by antiaircraft fire as he 
poised in the open door of his plane. 
While floating earthward with parachutes 
open, 2 other men were cut to pieces by 
the propellers of a crashing C-47. 

One of only two units of the division 
which were not delivered to the correct 
drop zone was the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. 
Harry W. O. Kinnard, Jr.), 501st Para- 
chute Infantry. Scheduled to drop just 
west of Veghel, between the Aa River 
and the Willems Canal, the battalion 
instead came to earth three miles to the 
northwest. The battalion nevertheless 
had a compact drop pattern and in less 
than an hour was on the move to seize the 
bridges over the Aa River at Veghel. An 



officer and forty-six men, including eight 
jump casualties, stayed behind at a 
chateau (Kasteel) to care for the casual- 
ties and to collect equipment bundles. 

While the bulk of Colonel Kinnard's 
battalion marched directly down a main 
road toward Veghel, an advance patrol 
occupied the railway bridge over the Aa 
without contest. Only as the battalion 
entered Veghel in quest of the highway 
bridge did any Germans fight back, and 
these offered only desultory, halfhearted 
fire. 

Meanwhile the main force of this regi- 
ment had been landing southwest of 
Veghel on the other side of the Willems 
Canal. Unopposed in the drop and as- 
sembly, one battalion organized within 
forty-five minutes, quickly secured the 
nearby village of Eerde, and sent a detach- 
ment to throw a roadblock across Hell's 
Highway between Veghel and St. Oeden- 
rode. The remaining battalion dispatched 
a small force to seize the railway bridge 
over the Willems Canal and then marched 
toward the highway bridge over the canal 
on the outskirts of Veghel. Inside Veg- 
hel, this battalion contacted Colonel 
Kinnard's men, who by this time had 
secured the road bridge over the Aa River. 
In approximately three hours, Colonel 
Johnson's 501st Parachute Infantry had 
seized all its D-Day objectives. Now the 
real problem was to organize a defense in 
spite of ecstatic Dutch civilians. 

In late afternoon a message arrived that 
cast a shadow on the day's success. At 
the chateau (Kasteel) northwest of Veg- 
hel, a force of about fifty Germans 
supported by mortars had surprised the 
officer and forty-six men who had stayed 
behind to collect equipment bundles. 

Mindful of the need to defend Veghel 
securely as darkness approached, the 



146 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



regimental commander, Colonel Johnson, 
could spare no more than a platoon for 
the relief of these men. A few hundred 
yards short of the chateau German fire 
forced this platoon to dig in for the night. 
The next morning it was obvious that the 
platoon either had to be reinforced or 
pulled back. Still apprehensive about 
the defense of Veghel, Colonel Johnson 
ordered the platoon withdrawn. That 
afternoon Colonel Kinnard sent a small 
patrol in another attempt to contact the 
bundle-collecting detail. "I am now at 
Kasteel," the patrol leader reported by 
radio, ". . . there are no signs of our men 
here but bloody bandages." 

Other than Colonel Kinnard's battalion, 
the only unit of the ioist Airborne Divi- 
sion that was not delivered to the correct 
drop zone on D-Day was a battalion of 
Colonel Michaelis' 502d Parachute In- 
fantry. The regiment was scheduled to 
drop on the northernmost of the two drop 
zones between Zon and St. Oedenrode; 
this battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. 
Patrick F. Cassidy, came down two miles 
away on the neighboring drop zone. Al- 
though delayed by this misadventure, 
Colonel Cassidy's battalion by nightfall 
had brought a persistent bunch of rear 
echelon Germans to heel in St. Oedenrode 
and thereby secured both a main highway 
and an alternate bridge over the Dommel 
River. Deploying to defend the village, 
Colonel Cassidy sent a patrol northeast 
along Hell's Highway to contact the 501st 
Parachute Infantry at Veghel. 

Another battalion of the 502d Para- 
chute Infantry deployed to protect the 
glider landing zone, while the bulk of the 
third battalion moved to an assembly area 
near Zon, ready to assist if need be the 
march of the neighboring regiment on 
Eindhoven. At the same time a com- 



pany of this battalion proceeded upon a 
separate mission, to capture the rail and 
road bridges over the Wilhelmina Canal 
southeast of Best. Although these bridges 
were not assigned objectives for the ioist 
Airborne Division, General Taylor con- 
sidered them valuable for three reasons: 
first, as an outpost protecting his glider 
landing zone and his main positions along 
Hell's Highway; again, as alternate cross- 
ings of the Wilhelmina Canal should the 
Germans destroy the bridges at Zon; and 
again, as control of a main highway (be- 
tween Eindhoven and 's Hertogenbosch ) 
by which the Germans otherwise might 
feed reinforcements to Eindhoven. To do 
the job, Colonel Michaelis sent Company 
H reinforced by a light machine gun 
section and a platoon of engineers. 

En route to the bridges, the Company 
H commander, Capt. Robert E. Jones, lost 
his way in a thick woods, the Zonsche 
Forest. Emerging near a road junction 
east of Best, the company came under fire 
from a small group of Germans appar- 
ently rallied by some local commander. 
The Germans gained the upper hand when 
infantry reinforcements and several small 
cannon arrived by truck from the direc- 
tion of 's Hertogenbosch. These could 
have been an advance detachment of 
General Poppe's Infantry Division, 

which was detraining at Tilburg under 
orders from the First Parachute Army's 
General Student to enter the fight. 

Goaded by radio messages from his 
battalion commander to get somebody to 
the bridges over the Wilhelmina Canal, 
Captain Jones organized a reinforced pa- 
trol. A platoon leader, Lt. Edward L. 
Wierzbowski, was to take a rifle platoon 
and the attached engineers and machine 
gun section to the bridges. 

Lieutenant Wierzbowski found in turn 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



147 



that casualties and disorganization had 
left him with but eighteen riflemen and 
twenty-six engineers. The lieutenant and 
his little force still were picking their way 
through the Zonsche Forest toward the 
bridges when night came, and with the 
darkness, a cold, penetrating rain. 

Back at regimental headquarters, Colo- 
nel Michaelis meanwhile had become 
perturbed about reports of Company H's 
encounter. He directed that the rest of 
the company's parent battalion go to 
Captain Jones's assistance. The com- 
mander, Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole, started 
with the battalion toward Best at 1800, 
but darkness fell before physical contact 
could be established with Captain Jones. 

In the meantime, Lieutenant Wierzbow- 
ski and his men had crawled the last few 
yards on their bellies to reach the Wil- 
helmina Canal several hundred yards east 
of the highway bridge. Slithering along 
the dike, the men neared the bridge, 
apparently undetected. While the lieu- 
tenant and a scout crawled ahead to 
reconnoiter, the main body of the patrol 
slid down the embankment to await their 
return. 

A barrage of "potato masher" hand 
grenades came suddenly from the darkness 
on the other side of the canal. Scared, a 
couple of men scrambled up the bank of 
the dike. Others followed. The night 
erupted with the fire of machine guns and 
rifles. Some of the men stampeded back 
toward the forest. 

When he heard this firing, Lieutenant 
Wierzbowski had come within sight of 
the bridge, only to find it covered by 
German sentries. Scurrying back, he dis- 
covered he had left but 3 officers and 15 
men, and 3 of these wounded. They had 
their individual weapons, plus a machine 
gun with 500 rounds of ammunition, a 



mortar with 6 rounds, and a bazooka with 
5 rockets. Here, as the cold rain fell, the 
men dug in for the night. 

As these events had developed, the 101st 
Airborne Division's D-Day glider lift had 
begun to arrive. Although not as im- 
mune to mishap as the parachutists, a 
total of 53 out of 70 gliders landed 
successfully with 32 jeeps, 13 trailers, and 
252 men. Of those that failed to make it, 
1 fell in the Channel, 1 crash-landed on 
the landing zone, 2 collided in the air 
above the landing zone, 2 were unac- 
counted for, 4 landed in friendly territory, 
and 7 came down behind enemy lines. 15 

The part of the division headquarters 
that had not parachuted with General 
Taylor came in by glider. Also arriving 
by glider were reconnaissance, signal, and 
medical units. A radio net linked division 
headquarters with the three parachute 
regiments within minutes after the glider 
landings. By 1500 medics were treating 
casualties in a temporary hospital erected 
in a field and at 1700 began a major 
operation. An hour later the medics 
moved to a civilian hospital in Zon. 

Before the gliders arrived, General Tay- 
lor's third regiment, the 506th Parachute 
Infantry, had assembled after a near- 
perfect drop on the southernmost division 
drop zone near Zon. Unhampered by 
opposition, a portion of one battalion 
assembled in less than forty-five minutes. 
Commanded by Maj. James L. LaPrade 
and accompanied by General Taylor, this 
battalion moved south to bypass Zon and 
come upon the highway bridge over the 



15 Another glider narrowly escaped a crash. 
When flak knocked out both pilot and copilot, 
Cpl. James L. Evans, a passenger unfamiliar 
with the controls and himself wounded by flak, 
steadied the ship until he could rouse the dazed 
pilot. 



148 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Wilhelmina Canal from the west flank. 
After capture of this bridge, the 506th 
Parachute Infantry was to continue south 
about six miles to Eindhoven. 

As Major LaPrade and his men ad- 
vanced, they came under deadly fire from 
an 88-mm. gun emplaced south of the 
Zonsche Forest. Hope for quick capture 
of the bridge from the flank began to fade. 

As soon as the other two battalions of 
the 506th Parachute Infantry assembled, 
the regimental commander, Colonel Sink, 
directed them in a column of battalions 
to Hell's Highway, thence south through 
Zon toward the canal. In Zon the lead- 
ing battalion also came under fire from an 
88, but a platoon acting as a point de- 
ployed among the buildings and advanced 
undetected within fifty yards of the gun. 
A round from the bazooka of Pvt. Thomas 
G. Lindsey finished it off. 

Evidently expecting that Major La- 
Prade's flanking battalion would have 
captured the highway bridge, these two 
battalions made no apparent haste in 
moving through Zon. They methodically 
cleared stray Germans from the houses, so 
that a full two hours had passed before 
they emerged from the village. Having 
at last overcome the enemy 88 south of the 
Zonsche Forest, Major LaPrade's battal- 
ion caught sight of the bridge at about 
the same time. Both forces were within 
fifty yards of the bridge when their objec- 
tive went up with a roar. Debris from 
the explosion rained all about. 

Rushing to the bank of the canal, 
Major LaPrade, a lieutenant, and a 
sergeant jumped into the water and swam 
across. Though Germans in a house on 
the south bank opened fire, other para- 
troopers found a rowboat and ferried a 
squad across. This advance party re- 
duced the opposition. The little rowboat 



made trip after trip across the canal while 
a platoon of engineers improvised a shaky 
footbridge, but not until an hour before 
midnight was the entire regiment across. 

Perturbed by civilian reports of a 
strong German garrison in Eindhoven, 
Colonel Sink was reluctant to enter the 
city by night. Aware that Eindhoven 
was a secondary objective on the division's 
timetable and that the British had been 
told the city might not be taken on D-Day, 
General Taylor approved a halt until 
daylight. 

As matters stood, the British ground 
column was no closer to Eindhoven than 
were the paratroopers, so that this con- 
servative approach worked no hardship. 
Yet it was a distinct risk, because General 
Taylor and Colonel Sink hardly could 
have known where the British were at the 
time. One of the gliders that failed to 
reach the 101st Airborne Division's land- 
ing zone had contained attached British 
signal personnel; without them, immediate 
contact with the 30 Corps proved impos- 
sible. Not until the next morning, when 
the 506th Parachute Infantry made radio 
contact with some American signalmen 
attached to the 30 Corps, could the 
Americans learn how far the British had 
advanced. 

Behind an artillery barrage that began 
an hour after the first troop carrier air- 
craft passed over the British lines, the 30 
Corps had attacked on schedule with 
tanks in the lead. Against five German 
battalions, including two SS battalions 
that 30 Corps intelligence had failed to 
detect, the spearhead Guards Armoured 
Division had made steady progress. In 
view of the fact that woods and marshy 
ground confined the attack to a front not 
much wider than the highway leading to 
Eindhoven, progress was remarkable, 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



149 





The Dutch Wei^ome the 506th Parachute Infantry. 



though not sufficient to take the tanks to 
Eindhoven. As night came the British 
stopped in Vaikenswaard, their "formal" 
objective. The objective of Eindhoven, 
which General Horrocks had indicated he 
hoped to reach on D-Day, lay six miles to 
the north. 1 " 

Against ineffective delaying actions by 



1 B The story of the ground attack is from 
Combat Interv with Renfro; Br A.bn Corps, 
Allied Abn Opns in Holland; 21 A Gp, Opn 
Market Garden. Wilmot, The Struggle for 
Europe, provides a lucid account. 



small enemy groups, Colonel Sink's 506th 
Parachute Infantry pressed the advance 
on Eindhoven early on D plus 1, 18 Sep- 
tember. By midmorning, the leading bat- 
talion had knocked out a nest of two 
88-mm. guns and pushed deep into the 
heart of the city. Colonel Sink had ex- 
pected to find at least a regiment of 
Germans in Eindhoven; he actually 
flushed no more than a company. Having 
taken four bridges over the Dommel River 
and a canal in the city by noon, the 
paratroopers spent the rest of the day 



150 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



rounding up enemy stragglers and clearing 
the southern outskirts for entry of the 
Guards Armoured Division. As they per- 
formed these tasks, Eindhoven went on a 
binge. As if by magic the city blossomed 
with the national color. "The reception 
was terrific," said one American officer. 
"The air seemed to reek with hate for the 
Germans . . . ." 

In the carnival atmosphere the para- 
troopers failed for a long time to hear the 
fretted clank of tanks they were listening 
for. At 1 1 30 the first direct radio 
communication with the Guards Ar- 
moured Division had revealed that the 
armor still was five miles south of 
Eindhoven, engaged in a bitter fight. At 
1230 hopes rose with the appearance of 
two British armored cars, but these had 
sneaked around the German flank to 
reach Eindhoven from the northwest. 
Shadows were falling when about 1900 
the paratroopers at last spotted the head 
of the main British column. 

The Guards Armoured Division pushed 
through Eindhoven without pause. At 
Zon, British engineers, who had been 
forewarned that the bridge over the 
Wilhelmina Canal was out, set to work. 
During the night they installed a Bailey 
bridge, so that at 0645 (D plus 2, 19 
September) the armor rumbled across. 
The ground advance was proceeding 
swiftly, but was it swift enough? Gen- 
eral Horrocks' 30 Corps was at least 
thirty-three hours behind schedule. 

Though overshadowed by the events at 
Eindhoven, the side show that had de- 
veloped near Best actually provided the 
1 01 st Airborne Division's stiff est fighting 
on D plus 1 and 2. Destruction of the 
bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Zon 
having lent exigency to the 502d Para- 
chute Infantry's mission of securing al- 



ternate bridges, Colonel Michaelis early on 
D plus 1, 18 September, committed a 
second battalion to the Best fight. 

The answer to the situation at Best lay 
in General Poppe's §gth Division. No 
sooner had this force detrained at Tilburg 
than the First Parachute Army's General 
Student sent the bulk of the division to 
secure the bridges near Best. In the 
meantime, three companies reinforced by 
two replacement battalions and a police 
battalion were to cut Hell's Highway at 
St. Oedenrode. 17 

The Americans could be grateful that 
General Poppe's division faced an ammu- 
nition situation that was "nearly desper- 
ate," having had to leave behind most of 
its ammunition when ferried across the 
Schelde estuary as part of the Fifteenth 
Army. 16 As it was, the two American 
battalions had all they could do to hold 
their own. The fresh battalion, com- 
manded by Lt. Col. Steve A. Chappuis, 
tried to drive to the bridges over the 
Wilhelmina Canal but had to fall back to 
a defense with Colonel Cole's battalion on 
the edge of the Zonsche Forest. A timely 
strike by a flight of P-47's held the 
Germans off. Colonel Cole himself fell, 
dead of a German bullet through the 
temple. 

All through the day of D plus 1 the 
sound of firing had fanned hope of relief 
in the minds of Lieutenant Wierzbowski 
and his group of fifteen men along the 
dike near the highway bridge. Then, at 
1 1 00, the hundred-foot concrete span over 
the Wilhelmina Canal trembled and lifted 
with a violent explosion. The objective 
for which the 502d Parachute Infantry 



17 Mng, Noon, and Evng Sitreps, A Gp B, 
1000, 1530, and 2000, 18 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Letzte Meldung. 

ls Ibid. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



151 



continued to fight the rest of the day was 
no longer worth fighting for. 

The experiences of Lieutenant Wierz- 
bowski and his little group were a testi- 
monial to the kind of hardship small, 
isolated units sometimes are called upon 
to endure. In midafternoon their troubles 
increased when a small German force 
attacked. One man was killed outright. 
Seriously wounded in the base of the 
spine, another slowly died from loss of 
blood. Obsessed with a belief that enemy 
fire had torn off his testicles, one of the 
engineer officers pleaded with Lieutenant 
Wierzbowski to kill him. Wierzbowski 
finally convinced him his wounds were 
not that serious. Two German bullets 
hit the platoon's lead scout, Pfc. Joe E. 
Mann, who already had incurred two 
wounds; now both his arms hung useless. 
Though an engineer lieutenant and a 
sergeant tried to break through for aid, 
the lieutenant was captured and the 
sergeant wounded. 

Hope stirred again during the late 
afternoon and early evening. First, a 
British armored car and a reconnaissance 
car appeared on the opposite bank of the 
canal. The British tried to raise head- 
quarters of the ioist Airborne Division on 
their radio, but to no avail. They pro- 
vided fire support until later in the evening 
when a platoon of paratroopers who had 
gotten lost stumbled onto Lieutenant 
Wierzbowski's position. 

Although this platoon agreed to defend 
one of Lieutenant Wierzbowski's flanks, 
the men fell back during the night in the 
face of a small German attack. Again 
Wierzbowski and his little group were 
alone. Then a small patrol from Colonel 
Chappuis' battalion stumbled onto the 
position. Though the lieutenant sent 
word of his plight by this patrol, the 



report was not to reach Colonel Chappuis 
until the next morning. Distorted in 
transmission, the message said only that 
the bridge had been blown. 

As a misty daylight began to break on 
D plus 2, 19 September, Lieutenant 
Wierzbowski spotted a small German 
force bearing down on his position. 
Though the lieutenant yelled an alarm, 
the Germans already were too close. Two 
German grenades rolled down among the 
wounded. Although the men tossed these 
out before they exploded, another hit the 
machine gun and blinded the gunner. A 
moment later another grenade rolled into 
this man's foxhole. One eye blown out 
entirely, the other blinded, the soldier 
groped wildly for the grenade. He found 
it and tossed it from his foxhole only a 
split second before it exploded. 

Another grenade fell behind Private 
Mann, who was sitting in a trench with 
six other wounded. Mann saw the 
grenade come and felt it land behind him. 
Helpless, his arms bound and useless from 
the wounds incurred the day before, he 
yelled: "Grenade!" Then he lay back to 
take the explosion with his body. 19 

"Shall we surrender or fight?" the men 
had asked persistently. As the Germans 
made a final charge, Lieutenant Wierz- 
bowski gave them a succinct answer: 
"OK. This is the time." Only three of 
his men had gone unscathed. They had 
virtually no ammunition. Their last gre- 
nade was gone. One man put a dirty 
handkerchief on a rifle and waved it. 20 

19 Private Mann was posthumously awarded 
the Medal of Honor. The Dutch have erected 
a memorial in his honor in the Zonsche Forest. 

20 Cpl. Daniel L. Corman played dead by fall- 
ing across what he thought was the corpse of his 
foxhole mate. Unmoving, Corman stayed there 
until late afternoon when other paratroopers at 
last arrived. Then he found that the man he 
had been lying on still had a breath of life in him. 



152 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



In the meantime, a kind of stalemate 
had developed in the fighting along the 
edge of the Zonsche Forest. Though the 
two American battalions held their own, 
their regimental commander, Colonel 
Michaelis, could not reinforce them with- 
out neglecting defense of St. Oedenrode, 
which was one of his primary missions. 

The solution came at last in the junc- 
ture with the British ground troops, 
whereby a squadron of British tanks and 
a modicum of artillery support became 
available. Arrival by glider in the after- 
noon of D plus i of two battalions of the 
327th Glider Infantry under Col. Joseph 
H. Harper also helped. 21 Because of rain 
and mist along the southern air route, 
this glider lift had come in via the north- 
ern route and brought successful landing 
of 428 out of 450 gliders of the 101st 
Airborne Division. A total of 2,579 men > 
146 jeeps, 109 trailers, 2 bulldozers, and 
some resupply had arrived. 

General Taylor ordered his assistant 
division commander, Brig. Gen. Gerald J. 
Higgins, to take over-all command of the 
two battalions of the 502d Parachute 
Infantry near Best, contingents of the 
327th Glider Infantry, a squadron of 
British tanks, and elements of British artil- 
lery and to reduce all enemy east of the 
highway between Eindhoven and 's Her- 
togenbosch and north of the Wilhelmina 
Canal. Though the destruction of the 



21 Like all glider regiments, the 327th Glider 
Infantry had but two organic rifle battalions. In 
informal reorganization between actions in Sicily 
and Normandy, the glider regiments of both the 
82d and 101st Airborne Divisions had gained a 
third battalion by splitting between them another 
regiment, the 401st. Thus, the 1st Battalion, 
401st Glider Infantry, while retaining formal 
status as an independent unit, normally func- 
tioned as the 3d Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry. 



Best highway bridge had eliminated the 
original purpose of the Best fighting, the 
job of protecting the west flank of the 
101st Airborne Division remained. 

The British tanks made the difference in 
an attack that began at 1400 on D plus 2. 
Within German ranks, a festering disinte- 
gration by late afternoon became a rout. 
"Send us all the MP's available," became 
the cry as hundreds of Germans began to 
give up. For almost three days a bitter, 
costly, and frustrating fight, the action at 
Best now became little more than a mop- 
up. By the end of D plus 2 the prisoners 
totaled more than 1,400, and the para- 
troopers actually counted more than 300 
enemy dead. Some of the prisoners 
came in with Lieutenant Wierzbowski and 
the survivors of his little band. They had 
been taken to a German aid station and 
there had talked their captors into sur- 
render. 

Best itself remained in German hands, 
and much of the territory taken had to be 
abandoned as soon as the mop-up ended. 
Now the battle of Hell's Highway was 
developing into the Indian-type fighting 
General Taylor later was to call it, and 
these men from Best were needed at other 
points. The engagement near Best had 
been costly and had secured neither of the 
bridges over the Wilhelmina Canal, yet it 
had parried what could have become a 
serious blow by the §gth Division. Gen- 
eral Poppe now had scarcely a shell of a 
division. 

While the fight raged at Best on D plus 
1 and 2, the rest of the 101st Airborne 
Division was maintaining defensive posi- 
tions at Eindhoven, Zon, St. Oedenrode, 
and Veghel. From Eindhoven, Colonel 
Sink's 506th Parachute Infantry sent a 
battalion to either flank to widen the base 
of the Market-Garden corridor, but in 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



153 



both cases Sink recalled the troops before 
they reached their objectives. On the 
west the battalion returned because the 12 
British Corps had begun to advance along 
the left flank of the corridor and was 
expected soon to overrun the battalion's 
objective. The battalion on the east re- 
turned because Colonel Sink learned that 
a column of German armor was loose in the 
region and he wanted no part of a meeting 
engagement with armor. 

Late in the afternoon of D plus 2 this 
German column struck toward Zon in an 
attempt to sever the thin lifeline over 
which the British ground column was 
pushing toward Nijmegen. It was Major 
von Maltzahn's 107th Panzer Brigade that 
on D-Day had been rerouted from Aachen 
to the assistance of the First Parachute 
Army. Although General Student had 
ordered the panzer brigade and General 
Poppe's Division to make a con- 

centric attack toward Zon, the $gth Di- 
vision at the time the brigade arrived was 
hors de combat. 22 

Even without the Division the 

German attack came close to succeeding. 
Only a scratch force that included Gen- 
eral Taylor's headquarters troops was 
available at the time for defending the 
Bailey bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal 
at Zon. Darkness had fallen, a British 
truck struck by a round from a German 
tank was burning brightly atop the bridge, 
and a Panther was pumping round after 
round into a building housing the division 
command post when General Taylor him- 
self arrived with reinforcements. He led 
part of a glider infantry battalion and a 
lone 57-mm. antitank gun. One of the 
first rounds from this gun knocked out a 



22 Evng Sitrep, A Gp B, 19 Sep 44, A Gp B 
KTB, Letzte Meldung. 



German tank near the bridge. Bazooka 
fire disabled another. The Germans ap- 
peared to lose heart after this, and traffic 
gradually began to flow again along Hell's 
Highway. 

Another German blow against Hell's 
Highway on D plus 2 came from the air, 
perhaps as a direct result of Hitler's ex- 
hortations that the Luftwaffe put his little 
world right again. About a hundred 
German twin-engine bombers came out of 
hiding after nightfall to bombard the 
central part of Eindhoven. Because most 
American units held positions outside the 
city, they incurred no damage; but more 
than a thousand civilians were killed or 
wounded, and British units were heavily 
hit. Whether from lack of planes, fuel, 
or trained crewmen, or because of all 
three, this 'was the only major strike by 
long-range German bombers during the 
course of the campaign in the West during 
the fall of 1944. 23 

At both Veghel and St. Oedenrode 
during these first days, Colonel Johnson's 
501st Parachute Infantry and Colonel 
Cassidy's battalion of the 502d Parachute 
Infantry had held their positions about the 
canal and river bridges against persistent 
but small German attacks, most of which 
were in company strength. The strongest 
— by three companies of the §gth Division 
reinforced by police and replacement 
units — struck Colonel Cassidy's battalion 
on D plus 2 on the road to Schijndel. 
Hard pressed at first, Colonel Cassidy's 
men gained assistance from Sgt. James 
M. (Paddy) McCrory, commander of a 
crippled tank that had dropped out of the 



23 Greater detail on this and other German air 
operations against Operation Market may be 
found in Hq, AAF, Airborne Assault on Holland, 
an Interim Report, Wings at War Series, No. 4, 
PP- 37-39- 



154 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



British ground column. Although the tank 
could make no more than five miles per 
hour, McCrory plunged unhesitatingly 
into the fight. When the paratroopers 
tried to thank him, he brushed them off. 
"When in doubt," Sergeant McCrory said, 
"lash out." His words became a kind of 
unofficial motto of the battalion. 

General Taylor had hoped to be in a 
stronger position by the end of D plus 2 
with the addition of most of his airborne 
artillery. But the bugaboo that threatens 
all airborne operations had developed. 
The weather closed in. Though the 
flights on D plus 2 were postponed until 
late in the day on the chance the weather 
might clear, troops in the gliders still were 
to speak of a mist so thick they could see 
nothing but three feet of tow rope 
stretching out into nowhere. Because the 
glider pilots could not detect when their 
mother planes banked, many gliders 
turned over and had to cut loose pre- 
maturely. The Air/Sea Rescue Service 
worked overtime plucking ditched crew- 
men and passengers from the Channel. 
Many planes and gliders turned back. 
On the other hand, weather at German 
bases must have been better; for the 
Germans sent up more than 125 Messer- 
schmitts and Focke-Wulfs. A total of 
1,086 Allied troop carrier, tow, and re- 
supply planes and 428 gliders took off on 
D plus 2. A large part of these returned 
to base, while 45 planes and 73 gliders 
were lost. 24 

Probably because the 101st Airborne 
Division's landing zone was relatively se- 
cure, General Brereton allotted General 
Taylor, at the expense of the 8 2d Airborne 



24 FAAA, Opns in Holland. See also Rapport 
and Northwood, Rendezvous With Destiny, pp. 
312-13. 



Division, 384 gliders for the D plus 2 
flight, more than twice the number origi- 
nally planned. Only 2 1 2 of these arrived. 
After missing the landing zone and circling 
vainly, 82 tow planes returned to England. 
These were minus 31 of their gliders 
which cut loose behind friendly lines, 16 
known to have crash-landed in enemy 
territory, and 26 not accounted for. 
Those glidermen who landed behind Ger- 
man lines and eventually rejoined their 
units brought with them harrowing tales 
of hairbreadth escapes punctuated with 
praise for the Dutch underground. Most 
of these men were artillerymen, for the 
flights bringing in the artillery units were 
particularly cut up. Of 66 artillery 
pieces and antitank guns that started the 
flight, only 36 arrived. None was larger 
than the 75-mm. pack howitzer; all planes 
towing gliders with 105 -mm. howitzers 
had to turn back. 

Difficulties imposed on the 101st Air- 
borne Division by the adverse weather 
could not be ignored, and General Taylor's 
"Indian War" to keep open Hell's High- 
way would remain critical as long as men 
and supplies had to go north over the 
highway. Nevertheless, at the moment, a 
situation had developed farther north that 
overshadowed events along Hell's High- 
way. Moving on Grave and Nijmegen, 
the British ground column was hard 
pressed to cross the Maas and Waal Rivers 
and reach the British airborne troops at 
Arnhem. To ensure passage of the 
ground column, the 82 Airborne Division 

at Nijmegen was fighting against time. 

/ 

Six Bridges and a Ridge 

For the 82 d Airborne Division, the mere 
possession of the towns, the bridges, and 
the highway in the division's assigned sec- 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 
r. 



155 




General Gavin and General Dempsey (on left) confer during Operation MARKET- 
GARDEN. 



tor was not sufficient to ensure the 
ol the 30 Corps ground column. Sj 

25 The 82d "All-American" Airborne Division 
made a first combat jump in Sicily, then rein- 
forced the Fifth Army at Salerno. When the 
division returned to England, one regiment re- 
mained behind to fight at Anzio and missed the 
Normandy jump but later rejoined the division. 
Attachment of the 508th Parachute Infantry 
provided the division with a fourth infantry 
regiment. Unless otherwise noted, the story of 
the 8sd in Operation Market is based upon 
official unit records and combat interviews. A 
unit history, Saga of the All-American, compiled 
and edited by W. Forrest Dawson (Atlanta, 
Albert Love Enterprises, 1946), is largely pic- 
torial. As noted, because of sketchy records, 
considerable reliance has had to be placed upon 
postwar observations. 



Even the bridges over two of the most 
formidable water obstacles along the entire 
path, the sprawling Maas and Waal 
Rivers, were overshadowed by another 
feature of terrain: the hill mass southeast 
of Nijmegen. This high ground is gen- 
erally triangular in shape, but the most 
pronounced and highest elevations are 
mainly along the north and east, forming 
a wnnded ridge line that extends southeast 
from Nijmegen past the resort hotel of 
Berg en Dal to the vicinity of the village 
of Wyler, thence south through Groesbeek 
to the village of Riethorst, close to the 
Maas River. Roughly 300 feet in height, 



156 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the ridge line is about eight miles long. 
At the base of its eastern slope lies the 
Dutch-German border, where the ground 
rises again to the east into a big forest, 
the Reichswald. 

In the eyes of the 82d Airborne Division 
commander, Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin, 26 
possession of the ridge represented the key 
to success or failure. "With it in German 
hands," General Gavin was to note later, 
"physical possession of the bridges would 
be absolutely worthless, since it com- 
pletely dominated the bridges and all the 
terrain around it." General Gavin be- 
lieved that if he held this ridge, the British 
ground column ultimately could succeed, 
even if his airborne troops should be 
driven away from the bridges. The high 
ground also represented a ready airhead 
for later operations. 27 

An understanding of General Gavin's 
concern about this ridge involves going 
beyond consideration of the usual impor- 
tance of high ground to success in almost 
any operation. The high ground in this 
instance was unusual in that almost all 
surrounding terrain was predominantly 
flat. Not only did the high ground dom- 
inate all the other objectives — the bridges 
over the Maas, the Maas-Waal Canal, 
and the Waal — it also represented the only 
real barrier to counterattack should the 
Germans strike from the east from the 
direction of the Reichswald. This last the 
82d Airborne Division G-2, Lt. Col. 
Walter F. Winton, Jr., predicted might 
constitute the major reaction to the land- 



20 General Gavin was promoted to major gen- 
eral during the course of this operation. 

27 Ltr, Gavin to Capt John G. Westover, Hist 
Off, 25 Jul 45, in reply to questions submitted 
by Westover to CofS, 82d Abn Div, 82d Abn Div 
Combat Interv file. 



ings. 28 From the direction of the Reichs- 
wald the Germans would have two major 
routes, one leading from Kleve along the 
north edge of the forest east into- 
Nijmegen, the other, from Venlo, passing 
along the south edge of the forest and 
thence northeast through the villages of 
Riethorst and Mook and generally along- 
side the Maas-Waal Canal into Nijmegen. 

The possibility of counterattack from 
this direction took on added credence from 
the Dutch resistance reports of panzer 
formations assembling in the Netherlands. 
The 82d Airborne Division was led to 
believe that this armor was concentrating 
in the Reichswald. This information be- 
came "a major and pressing element in the 
predrop picture of German forces." 29 

The possibility of encountering German 
armor underscored, in General Gavin's 
mind, the importance of the defensive 
aspects of the 82d Airborne Division's 
assignment. Unlike the 101st Airborne 
Division, the 82 d could anticipate contact 
with the ground column no sooner than 
D plus 1, at the earliest, and even this 
was highly conjectural. General Gavin 
believed it necessary to plan his fight "in 
such a manner as to be able to conduct a 
good fight, well in hand, for at least three 
days, and almost certainly well beyond 
this time, if need be." 30 

Had the entire strength of the 82d 
Airborne Division been available on D- 
Day, all assigned objectives might have 
been designated to be taken at once as a 
matter of course, despite the threat of the 



28 Ibid., and Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 Jan 54. 

29 Ltr, Winton to OCMH, 8 Mar 54, OCMH; 
Intelligence Trace No. 5 in Hq, Troop Carrier 
Forces FO No. 4, 13 Sep 44; 505th Prcht Inf 
AAR. 

30 Gavin, Ltr to OCMH. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



157 



Reichswald and delayed contact with the 
ground column. As it was, because of 
the limitations of the D-Day lift, the 
question of priority of objectives entered 
the picture. In anticipation of a heavy 
fight before the ground column could 
provide artillery and antitank support, 
General Gavin allotted a portion of his 
D-Day lift to a parachute artillery battal- 
ion. He also scheduled arrival of the rest 
of his artillery on D plus i. This meant 
that the glider infantry regiment could not 
arrive until D plus 2, so that for the first 
two days the 82d would have but three 
regiments of infantry. If these three par- 
achute infantry regiments tried to take all 
assigned objectives, they would be spread 
dangerously thin for holding the objectives 
in the event enemy armor materialized 
from the Reichswald. 

Take only the bridges and you probably 
could not hold them without the high 
ground. Take only the high ground, the 
Waal bridge at Nijmegen, and the Maas- 
Waal Canal bridges, and the ground 
column could not get across the Maas 
either to use the other bridges or to relieve 
the airborne troops. With only so many 
troops at hand, General Gavin saw no 
solution at first other than to take first the 
high ground and the Maas and Maas- 
Waal Canal bridges — thereby ensuring 
juncture with the ground column — then 
Nijmegen. 

General Gavin and his staff were not 
alone in this thinking. Indeed, the direc- 
tive from the corps commander, General 
Browning, was "clear and emphatic" to 
the effect that the division was "not to 
attempt the seizure of the Nijmegen 
Bridge until all other missions had been 
successfully accomplished and the Groes- 
beek-Berg en Dal high ground was firmly 



in our hands." 81 In his formal order 
General Browning stated: "The capture 
and retention of the high ground between 
Nijmegen and Groesbeek is imperative in 
order to accomplish the Division's task." 82 

On the other hand, the question of 
taking the magnificent 1,960-foot span 
across the Waal River at Nijmegen obvi- 
ously was not dismissed summarily. The 
bridge in relation to strength available to 
take it on D-Day was the subject of 
continuing discussion, not only before D- 
Day but after the jump. As late as 
midafternoon of D plus 1 General Brown- 
ing disapproved a projected plan for 
taking the Nijmegen bridge and directed 
instead that the 82d Airborne Division 
continue to concentrate for the time being 
upon defending the high ground and the 
bridges over the Maas and Maas-Waal. 38 

After "almost daily" discussions about 
the Nijmegen bridge in relation to the 
over-all plan, General Gavin and his staff 

31 Ibid.; Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, Airborne 
Warfare (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 

1947), P- 75- 

32 Hq Br Abn Corps, Opn Instr No. 1, Allied 
Abn Opns in Holland. General Browning was 
to recall later: "I personally gave an order to 
Jim Gavin that, although every effort should be 
made to effect the capture of the Grave and 
Nijmegen Bridges as soon as possible, it was 
essential that he should capture the Groesbeek 
Ridge and hold it — for . . . painfully obvious 
reasons .... If this ground had been lost to 
the enemy the operations of the 2nd Army would 
have been dangerously prejudiced as its advance 
across the Waal and Neder Rhein would have 
been immediately outflanked. Even the initial 
advance of the Guards Armoured Division would 
have been prejudiced and on them the final 
outcome of the battle had to depend." Ltr, 
Browning to Maj Gen G. E. Prier-Palmer, British 
Joint Services Mission, Washington, D.C., 25 
Jan 55, excerpt in OCMH. 

33 82d Abn Div CofS Jnl, entry of 0700, 19 
Sep 44, referring to conf, Gavin with Browning, 
1530, 18 Sep 44. See also Gavin Ltr to OCMH. 



158 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



finally decided, "About 48 hours prior to 
take-off, when the entire plan appeared to 
be shaping up well," that they could risk 
sending one battalion in a quick strike for 
the bridge. This was admittedly a mini- 
mum force, but if the Germans were not 
in strength at the bridge and if the 
expected counterattacks from the Reichs- 
wald could be held with a smaller force 
than originally deduced, the risk would be 
justified because of the nature of the prize. 
"I personally directed Colonel Roy E. 
Lindquist, commanding the 508th Para- 
chute Infantry," General Gavin recalled 
later, "to commit his first battalion 
against the Nijmegen bridge without delay 
after landing but to keep a very close 
watch on it in the event he needed it to 
protect himself against the Reichswald." 34 

In the end, the 82d Airborne Division 
was to try to seize all its objectives on 
D-Day: bridges over the Maas at Grave; 
over the Maas-Waal Canal near Honing- 
hutje, 35 Hatert, Maiden, and Heumen; 
and over the Waal at Nijmegen; plus the 
high ground. The only exception was the 
railroad bridge at Nijmegen for which no 
force apparently was allotted. 

The drop zone of the 508th Parachute 
Infantry (Colonel Lindquist) was on the 
high ground north of Groesbeek. In ad- 
dition to the one-battalion assignment 
against the Nijmegen bridge, Colonel 
Lindquist drew responsibility for a major 
portion of the high ground from Nijmegen 

34 Gavin Ltr to Westover; Gavin Ltr to 
OCMH. 

35 The Honinghutje bridge was not mentioned 
in 82d Abn Div FO 11, 13 Sep 44, which listed 
assignments. General Gavin in his letter to 
OCMH says that the 504th and 508th Parachute 
Infantry Regiments together were to take the 
bridge. The task "was to depend upon the 
development of the fight once the landings were 
accomplished." Presumably the same was true 
of rail bridges over both the Maas and the Waal. 



past the resort hotel of Berg en Dal to the 
village of Wyler, thence generally south to 
the vicinity of Groesbeek, a total distance 
of about six miles. The regiment also was 
to block enemy movement southward from 
Nijmegen and was to assist in taking the 
bridges over the Maas-Waal Canal at 
Hatert and Honinghutje, the last on the 
main Grave-Nijmegen highway. A final 
assignment involved securing the northern- 
most of two glider landing zones on the 
eastern slopes of the ridge line, south of 
Wyler. 

The 505th Parachute Infantry (Col. 
William E. Ekman) was to drop south of 
Groesbeek. The regiment then was to 
take Groesbeek, high ground in the vi- 
cinity, the southern glider landing zone 
southeast of Groesbeek, and the ridge line 
extending south as far as the Kiekberg 
(Hill 77.2), a high point overlooking the 
village of Riethorst. Patrols from this reg- 
iment were to assist in taking the Maas- 
Waal bridges at Heumen and Maiden. 

The principal assignment of the re- 
maining regiment, the 504th Parachute 
Infantry (Col. Reuben H. Tucker), was 
to take the 9-span, 1,800-foot bridge over 
the Maas River near Grave. In keeping 
with the theory that bridges are best taken 
by assault from both ends, one company 
was to drop south of the river. The rest 
of the regiment was to drop between the 
Maas and the Maas-Waal Canal. Other 
assignments included blocking enemy 
movement between the river and the canal 
from the west, assisting in taking the 
Honinghutje bridge, and capturing the 
Maiden and Heumen bridges. Gaining at 
least one of the four bridges over the 
Maas-Waal Canal was vital, for the canal 
is a sizable waterway, in most places about 
200 feet wide. The 504th also was to 
guard against counterattack from the west. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



159 



• - 




82 n Airborne: Division Drop near Grave. 



The flight, drops, and landings of the 
82 d Airborne Division on D-Day, 17 Sep- 
tember, proved even more phenomenally 
successful than did the loist's. Employ- 
ing the northern air route, the serials 
encountered only sporadic flak that was 
highly inaccurate even as it grew heavier 
near the drop zones. Only 1 of 482 
planes and 2 of 50 gliders failed to reach 
the target area. Incurring only 2 percent 
casualties, 7,277 men made the jump. At 
least 2 were killed, 1 who was struck by a 
supply bundle and another whose para- 
chute failed to open. Only 7 out of 209 
men who arrived by glider were injured. 
Eight 75-mm. guns arrived without inci- 
dent. The only miscalculation was the 
dropping of one battalion of the 508th 
Parachute Infantry a mile north of the 



assigned drop zone, but this had little 
effect on subsequent operations. Both 
General Gavin and the British Airborne 
Corps commander, General Browning, 
jumped with skeleton staffs. 

Resistance to the drop and assembly 
was "negligible," although some individ- 
uals had to fight their way off the drop 
zones. The 508th Parachute Infantry 
met resistance from "a few widely scat- 
tered" antiaircraft crews and "some iso- 
lated labor troops," but the general 
picture was as summed up by the G-2: 
"Landed against almost no opposition." 36 



an Msg, G-2 to CO Base Echelon, 17 Sep, in 
Gad Abn Div G-2 Jnl, 17-21 Sep 44; 508th 
Prcht Inf AAR and other regtl AARs; Gavin Ltr 
to OCMH. 



160 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Taking the Objectives 

The task of seizing the big highway 
span over the Maas River near Grave was 
easier because one stick of sixteen men 
failed to get the green light signal to jump 
until "a bit late." 37 When the signal 
came the officer in charge of this stick, Lt. 
John S. Thompson, noted that his plane 
was directly over a group of buildings. 
He decided "to wait a few seconds and 
jump on a field just southwest of the 
Grave Bridge." 38 The result was that he 
and his men came to earth only about 700 
yards from the south end of the bridge, 
while the rest of the company of the 504th 
Parachute Infantry that jumped south of 
the Maas came down more than a mile 
away. 

Lieutenant Thompson lost no time 
getting started toward the bridge. De- 
spite occasional small arms fire, he and his 
men made their way through drainage 
ditches to the vicinity of a tower near the 
bridge. Two hits from a bazooka si- 
lenced a 20-mm. flak gun in the tower. 
In keeping with established practice, the 
men made every effort to prevent any 
Germans from moving about near the 
bridge, lest they set or activate demolitions. 
As the men reached the bridge, they cut 
all visible wires. 

In the meantime, the main body of 
Lieutenant Thompson's parent battalion 
had been assembling on the other side of 
the Maas River. As the battalion reached 
the north end of the bridge, only a flak 
gun on river flats nearby offered any real 
problem. In less than three hours, the 
504th Parachute Infantry was in firm 



37 Combat Interv with personnel of Co E, 
504th Prcht Inf. 

38 Gavin letter to OCMH, citing an account 
of the event written by Lieutenant Thompson. 



control of the Maas bridge, one of the 
major prizes of the entire Market- 
Garden operation. That the Germans 
had failed to demolish the bridge could be 
explained either through the precautions 
Lieutenant Thompson and his men had 
taken or through prisoner revelations that 
the bridge was to have been blown only 
on order of the German corps commander, 
who was not present. 39 

The bulk of Lieutenant Thompson's 
parent company had been unable to 
reach the bridge from the drop zone west 
of Grave because of small arms fire from 
the town. Aware that a twelve-mile gap 
existed between the company and closest 
units of the 101st Airborne Division at 
Veghel, the company commander set up 
a roadblock across the main highway to 
forestall German reinforcements from the 
south. That night a patrol went into 
Grave to investigate strange noises emanat- 
ing from the town. The patrol found 
civilians gathered in the town hall lustily 
singing the Dutch version of "Tipperary." 
The Germans had gone. 

Of the other two battalions of Colonel 
Tucker's 504th Parachute Infantry, one 
swept stray Germans from between the 
Maas and the Maas- Waal Canal as far 
west as the main highway, while the 
second set out to take two bridges over the 
canal. Both bridges were near the south- 
east end of the canal where it joins the 
Maas River, one near the village of 
Maiden, the other at Heumen. These 
bridges were important not only as possi- 
ble routes north for the ground column 
but also as connections between the 504th 
Parachute Infantry and the other regi- 
ments on the high ground to the northeast. 



39 82d Abn Div, Annex 3 to G-2 Rpt 91, 
Translation of Captured Document 15 Sep 44. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



161 



The battalion commander, Maj. Willard 
E. Harrison, sent a company to each 
objective. The men who charged the 
bridge at Maiden saw their objective go 
up in smoke as they made a final dash 
toward it. At Heumen, small arms fire 
from an island in the canal a few yards 
north of the bridge stymied advance until 
at last 8 men infiltrated to a point near 
the bridge from which they could 
spray the island with machine gun fire. 
Covered by this fire, 2 officers, a corporal, 
and a radio operator ran for the bridge. 
Three of them made it. Before dark, an- 
other officer and 6 men rowed across the 
canal to join this trio. 40 Yet the presence 
of this little force on the east bank of the 
canal had no apparent effect upon the 
Germans who were covering the bridge 
from the island. 

The American company commander, 
Capt. Thomas B. Helgeson, expected the 
bridge to be blown at any moment. As 
approaching darkness provided some con- 
cealment, Captain Helgeson sent the 
battalion demolition squad to search for 
and cut demolition wires. "The bridge 
had been prepared for demolition," men 
of the battalion recalled later, "and no- 
body knows why it was not blown." 41 

Darkness at last provided the antidote 
for the German fire from the island. Soon 
after nightfall, a strong patrol stormed 
across a footbridge and overran the 
German positions. Six hours after H 
Hour the Heumen bridge was safe. It 
subsequently was to serve as the main 
route across the Maas-Waal Canal for 
the British ground column. 

40 General Gavin recalls that the division 
Reconnaissance Platoon approached the east 
side of the bridge late in the afternoon. Gavin 
Ltr to OCMH. 

41 Combat Interv with personnel of 1st Bn, 
504th Prcht Inf. 



Of two other bridges over the Maas- 
Waal Canal — one near Hatert, northwest 
of Maiden, the other on the main 
Grave-Nijmegen highway near Honing- 
hutje — only the Hatert bridge was at- 
tacked on D-Day. To Hatert went 
elements of the 504th and a platoon of 
Colonel Lindquist's 508th Parachute In- 
fantry, only to find the bridge demolished. 

Before dawn the next morning, Colonel 
Lindquist sent a platoon to seize the 
bridge at Honinghutje. When German 
fire pinned this platoon to nearby drainage 
ditches, another platoon arrived to help. 
Together they stormed the bridge, but 
not before the Germans hurriedly set off 
demolitions. Though the explosion failed 
to demolish the bridge, it weakened it to 
the extent that the ground column sub- 
sequently avoided it in favor of a more 
circuitous route via the Heumen bridge. 

Like Colonel Tucker's battalions, those 
of Colonel Lindquist's 508th Parachute 
Infantry and of Colonel Ekman's 505th 
Parachute Infantry had assembled within 
an hour after the D-Day drop. One 
battalion was moving toward its objective 
within twenty minutes after the drop. 

With the assistance of the Dutch un- 
derground, one battalion of the 505th 
Parachute Infantry rounded up stragglers 
in Groesbeek. The battalion then oc- 
cupied a peak (Hill 81.8) of the ridge line 
in woods west of the village, constituting 
a division reserve, and also sent patrols 
southwest toward Heumen where soon 
after dark they contacted the 504th 
Parachute Infantry at the Heumen bridge. 
Part of another battalion occupied the 
Nijmegen-Groesbeek ridge south of Groes- 
beek, including the Kiekberg (Hill 77.2), 
which overlooks the village of Riethorst 
and the highway leading from the Reichs- 
wald to Mook and Nijmegen. A company 



162 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



later in the day cleared Riethorst and set 
up roadblocks. Although patrols at- 
tempted to seize a railroad bridge over the 
Maas River near Mook, the Germans blew 
the bridge with moments to spare. Colo- 
nel Ekman's remaining battalion dug in 
along the ridge at Groesbeek and north of 
that village and sent a company-size 
patrol east to the Reichswald. 

Because of the proximity of the 505th 
Parachute Infantry to the Reichswald, 
these men were particularly concerned 
about the report they had received in 
England that the Reichswald was a nest 
of German armor. They breathed more 
easily when the patrol returned with 
word that "no tanks could be seen." 
This was in keeping with information 
provided by Dutch civilians soon after 
the landings to the effect that "the report 
about the 1000 tanks in the Reichswald 
was false." 42 

Colonel Lindquist's 508th Parachute 
Infantry had begun work in the meantime 
on a variety of missions. One battalion 
moved west toward Hatert to assume de- 
fensive positions astride the Nijmegen- 
Mook highway, in order to block enemy 
movement southward from Nijmegen into 
the division's perimeter. This was the 
same battalion which sent a platoon on the 
unsuccessful quest of the Hatert bridge 
over the Maas-Waal Canal and the next 
morning sent two platoons to the Honing- 
hutje bridge. Another battalion ad- 
vanced north from the drop zone to 
occupy the northern prong of the wooded 
ridge line, a three-and-a-half-mile stretch 
extending from the southeastern fringe of 
Nijmegen past Hotel Berg en Dal. This 
the battalion had accomplished by night- 
fall of D Day "without serious resist- 



42 505th Prcht Inf AAR. 



ance." 43 Occupying the village of Beek 
at the foot of the ridge and thereby 
physically cutting the important Kleve- 
Nijmegen highway would have to await 
the next day. 

In the hands of the remaining battalion 
of the 508th Parachute Infantry rested a 
special destiny. This battalion, the 1st, 
commanded by Lt. Col. Shields Warren, 
Jr., represented the 82d Airborne Divi- 
sion's best chance for a cheap and rapid 
capture of the highway bridge over the 
sprawling Waal River at Nijmegen. 44 

After receiving General Gavin's pre- 
jump orders in regard to the Nijmegen 
bridge, Colonel Lindquist had earmarked 
Colonel Warren's battalion as one of two 
battalions from which he intended to 
choose one to move to the bridge, depend- 
ing upon the developing situation. Gen- 
eral Gavin's understanding, as recalled 
later, was that Warren's battalion was to 
move "without delay after landing." 45 
On the other hand, Colonel Lindquist's 
understanding, also as recalled later, was 
that no battalion was to go for the bridge 



43 508th Prcht Inf AAR. 

44 Although extensive combat interviews were 
conducted with personnel of the 508th Para- 
chute Infantry, they are inexplicably missing from 
Department of the Army files. The story has 
been reconstructed from unit records; Gavin's 
letters 'to Westover and OCMH; letters to 
OCMH from Colonel Warren, 5 July 1955, 
Colonel Lindquist, 9 September 1955, Col. 
Thomas J. B. Shanley formerly Executive Officer, 
508th Parachute Infantry, 2 Sep 55, and Rev. 
Bestebreurtje, 25 Oct 56; a postwar interview 
with Colonel Lindquist by Westover, 14 Sep 45, 
copy in 82d Airborne Division Combat Interview 
file; and Westover, The American Divisions in 
Operation Market, a preliminary narrative writ- 
ten in the European theater shortly after the war, 
copy in OCMH. Captain Westover had access 
to all the combat interviews when writing his 
narrative. 

45 Gavin Ltr to Westover. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



163 



until the regiment had secured its other 
objectives, that is to say, not until he had 
established defenses protecting his assigned 
portion of the high ground and the 
northern part of the division glider landing 
zone. 46 Instead of moving immediately 
toward the Nijmegen bridge, Colonel 
Warren's battalion was to take an "as- 
signed initial objective" in the vicinity of 
De Ploeg, a suburb of Nijmegen a mile 
and a quarter southeast of the city 
astride the Nijmegen-Groesbeek high- 
way. 47 Colonel Warren was to organize 
this objective for defense, tying in with 
the battalion near Hatert and the other 
near Hotel Berg en Dal, and then was to 
"be prepared to go into Nijmegen 
later." 48 

The assembly and movement to De 
Ploeg took approximately three and a half 
hours. After organizing a defense of the 
objective, Colonel Warren about 1830 
sent into Nijmegen a patrol consisting of 
a rifle platoon and the battalion intelli- 
gence section. This patrol was to make 
an aggressive reconnaissance, investigate 
reports from Dutch civilians that only 
eighteen Germans guarded the big bridge, 
and, if possible, capture the south end of 
the bridge. Unfortunately, the patrol's 
radio failed to function so that Colonel 
Warren was to get no word from the 
patrol until the next morning. 49 

As darkness approached, General Gavin 
ordered Colonel Lindquist "to delay not a 
second longer and get the bridge as 
quickly as possible with Warren's bat- 
talion." 50 Colonel Warren, in the mean- 

40 Lindquist Ltr to OCMH. See also letters 
from Shanley, Warren, and Bestebreurtje. 

41 508th Prcht Inf AAR. 

48 Warren Ltr to OCMH. 

49 Ibid. See also Shanley Ltr to OCMH. 

50 Gavin Ltr to OCMH. See also letters from 
Lindquist and Shanley. 



time, had found a Dutch civilian who 
said he could lead the battalion to the 
bridge and en route check with resistance 
headquarters within the city for the latest 
developments on German strength at the 
bridge. 51 Colonel Warren directed Com- 
panies A and B to rendezvous at a point 
just south of Nijmegen at 1900 and move 
with the Dutch guide to the bridge. 
Company C, a platoon of which already 
had gone into the city as a patrol, was 
withheld in regimental reserve. 

Although Company A reached the ren- 
dezvous point on time, Company B "got 
lost en route." 52 After waiting until 
about 2000, Colonel Warren left a guide 
for Company B and moved through the 
darkness with Company A toward the 
edge of the city. Some seven hours after 
H-Hour, the first real move against the 
Nijmegen bridge began. 

At the edge of the city Company A 
halted again while a patrol searched the 
first buildings. Finding no Germans, the 
company continued for several blocks up 
a main thoroughfare, the dark, deserted 
Groesbeekscheweg. As the scouts neared 
a traffic circle surrounding a landscaped 
circular park near the center of Nijmegen, 
the Keizer Karel Plein, from which a 
mall-like park led northeast toward the 
Nijmegen bridge, a burst of automatic 
weapons fire came from the circle. The 
time was about two hours before mid- 
night. 

As Company A formed to attack, the 
men heard the noise of an approaching 
motor convoy emanating from a side street 
on the other side of the traffic circle. 
Enemy soldiers noisily dismounted. 

51 Warren Ltr to OCMH. 

52 Msg, Harness Red to CO (no time signed, 
but sent to div hq at 2315, 17 Sep), 508th Prcht 
Inf Jnl file, 17 Sep- 16 Oct 44. 



164 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



No one could have said so with any 
finality at the time, but the chance for an 
easy, speedy capture of the Nijmegen 
bridge had passed. This was all the more 
lamentable because in Nijmegen during 
the afternoon the Germans had had noth- 
ing more than the same kind of "mostly 
low quality" 53 troops encountered at most 
other places on D Day. 

Although the enemy commander, Field 
Marshal Model, had entrusted Corps 
Feldt under Wehrkreis VI with responsi- 
bility for Nijmegen, he apparently had 
recognized the dire necessity of getting a 
more mobile and effective force to the 
Nijmegen bridge immediately. Sometime 
during late afternoon or early evening of 
17 September Model had dispatched an 
advance guard from the gth SS Panzer 
Division's Reconnaissance Battalion to de- 
fend the highway bridge. The com- 
mander of the 77 SS Panzer Corps, 
General Bittrich, in turn directed the 
entire 10th SS Panzer Division to move 
to Nijmegen. The main effort of the II 
SS Panzer Corps, General Bittrich 
believed, should be directed toward 
thwarting the Americans at Nijmegen, 
whereupon the British at Arnhem might 
be defeated in detail. He directed the 
first arrivals of the 10th SS Panzer Divi- 
sion — an infantry battalion and an en- 
gineer company — to relieve the gth SS 
Panzer Division's Reconnaissance Battal- 
ion, which presumably then was to return 
to Arnhem. 54 

The gth SS Reconnaissance Battalion 



53 82d Abn Div G-2 to Br Abn Corps G-2, 
1 8 10, 17 Sep 44, 82d Abn Div G-2 Jnl file, 17-21 
Sep 44. 

54 Mng Sitrep, A Gp B, 0400, 18 Sep 44, A Gp 
B KTB, Letzte Meldung; Minutes of Hitler 
Conference, 17 Sep 44 (Fragment No. 42); 
Bittrich Questionnaire, OCMH. 



apparently had gotten across the Neder 
Rijn at Arnhem before British paratroopers 
reached the Arnhem bridge, but the men 
of the 10th SS Panzer Division were too 
late. They subsequently crossed the 
Neder Rijn at a ferry near Huissen, south- 
east of Arnhem. Whether it was troops 
of the gth or of the 10th SS Panzer 
Division which reached the Keizer Karel 
Plein was conjectural, though probably it 
was the former. What mattered was that 
they had arrived in time to stop the first 
American thrust toward the Nijmegen 
bridge. 53 

When Company A attacked at the 
traffic circle, the SS troops counterat- 
tacked. The men of Company A became 
so disorganized in the darkness that they 
might have had to withdraw altogether 
had not Company B arrived to help 
stabilize the situation. 

While Colonel Warren reported news of 
the encounter to his regimental com- 
mander and asked reinforcement by Com- 
pany C, the commander of Company A, 
Capt. Jonathan E. Adams, Jr., received 
a report from Dutch civilians that the 
control mechanism for demolishing the 
highway bridge was housed in the main 
post office, only a few blocks north of the 
Keizer Karel Plein. Captain Adams him- 
self led a patrol of platoon size to destroy 
the mechanism. Though guards at the 
post office put up a fight, the paratroopers 
forced the building and destroyed what 
they took to be the control apparatus. 
Getting back to the traffic circle was 
another proposition. The Germans had 
closed in behind them. F:or three days 
these men and sympathetic civilians were 
to hold out at the post office until relief 
came. 



55 Ibid. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



165 



In the meantime Colonel Warren had 
tried to get a new attack moving toward 
the highway bridge; but this the Germans 
thwarted just before dawn with another 
sharp counterattack. While the counter- 
attack was in progress, General Gavin 
arrived at the battalion command post. 
Noting that the companies had become 
"very heavily engaged in close quarters in 
city streets under very difficult circum- 
stances," General Gavin directed that the 
battalion "withdraw from close proximity 
to the bridge and reorganize." 58 This 
was to mark the end of this particular 
attempt to take the Nijmegen bridge. 

A new attack to gain the bridge grew 
out of an early morning conference be- 
tween General Gavin and Colonel Lind- 
quist. In considering alternate means of 
getting the bridge with the limited forces 
available, it appeared possible that one 
company still might succeed if the advance 
was made along the less constricted south- 
eastern and eastern fringe of Nijmegen. 
The unit designated was Company G, 
part of the 3d Battalion, 508th, under Lt. 
Col. Louis G. Mendez, Jr., which was 
defending the three-and-a-half-mile stretch 
of high ground centered on Berg en Dal. 
Company G already had occupied Hill 64, 
little more than a mile from the south end 
of the highway bridge."' 

At 0745 on 18 September, D plus 1, 
Company G under Capt. Frank J. Novak 
started toward the bridge. Civilians 
showered the paratroopers with fruit and 
flowers as the advance began; but closer 
to the bridge the crowds markedly 

50 Gavin Ltr to Westover. 

1)7 Gavin Ltr to OGMH. Colonel Mendez re- 
called after the war that he directed Company 
G's attack "on his own responsibility." State- 
ment by CO, 3d Bn, 508th Prcht Inf, to Hist Off, 
8 Sep 44, as cited by Westover, The American 
Divisions in Operation Market, Ch III, p. 38. 



thinned. The reason soon became ap- 
parent. From dug-in positions about a 
small traffic circle south of a common, 
the Hunner Park, which embraces the 
southern approaches to the bridge, the 
Germans lay in wait. The center of the 
defense was a historic observation tower, 
the Belvedere, and medieval walls sur- 
rounding it. 

Company G was but two blocks from 
the Maria Plein when the Germans 
opened fire. With small arms and anti- 
aircraft guns ranging from 20- to 88-mm., 
they searched the streets opening onto the 
circle. 

Captain Novak quickly deployed his 
men and attacked. Storming into the 
teeth of the enemy fire, they gained a 
position only a block from the traffic 
circle. German artillery fire emanating 
from the north bank of the Waal rein- 
forced the defense. The men of Com- 
pany G could go no farther. 

Reinforcement of Company G appeared 
inadvisable. The battalion commander, 
Colonel Mendez, could send no help with- 
out jeopardizing his defense of the high 
ground in the vicinity of Hotel Berg en 
Dal. The regimental commander, Colo- 
nel Lindquist, had only a company in 
reserve, and this company probably 
would be needed to clear one of the 
division's glider landing zones for a glider 
lift that was scheduled to arrive almost 
momentarily. Some consideration appar- 
ently was given at division headquarters 
to reinforcing the troops in Nijmegen with 
a portion of the 505th Parachute Infan- 
try, one battalion of which was in division 
reserve in the woods west of Groesbeek, 
but it was not done. 58 

58 82d Abn Div G-3 to CO 508, 18 Sep (no 
time signed, but msg entered in jnl file at 1150), 
508th Prcht Inf Jnl file, 17 Sep-16 Oct 44. See 
also Shanley Ltr to OCMH. 



166 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



At 1400 on 18 September Colonel Men- 
dez ordered Company G to withdraw 
from Nijmegen to Hill 64. Nijmegen 
and the highway bridge so vital to relief 
of the British airborne troops farther 
north at Arnhem remained in German 
hands. 59 Of three attempts to capture 
the bridge on D-Day and D plus 1, one 
of patrol size had failed because it was too 
weak and lacked communications; an- 
other of two-company size, because the 
Germans had had time to reinforce their 
garrison; and the third of company size, 
for the same reason. Though small, at 
least two of these attacks conceivably 
might have succeeded except for their 
timing. No attempt to seize the railway 
bridge over the Waal at Nijmegen had 
been made. 00 

The problem of the glider landing zones, 
which appeared to be one of the reasons 
why no stronger effort was made at 
Nijmegen, had grown out of two factors: 
the location of the landing zones and the 
82 d Airborne Division's shortage of in- 
fantry in relation to its numerous and 
widely dispersed objectives. The landing 
zones were situated near the bottom of the 
eastern slopes of the ridge between Groes- 
beek and the Reichswald. Though the 
landing zones had been fairly well cleared 
on D-Day, not enough infantry could be 
spared to hold them in strength. Be- 
ginning soon after daylight on D plus 1, 
the equivalent of two understrength Ger- 



50 To anyone following progress of the fight for 
the bridge in the 82d Airborne Division G-2 
Journal, withdrawal must have come as something 
of a surprise. Three separate entries in the 
journal early on 18 September — all erroneous — 
reported "patrols on Nijmegen bridge." 

"° Reconnaissance patrols were to move toward 
both bridges during the night of D plus 1. 82d 
Abn Div G-2 Jnl file, 19 Sep 44. 



man battalions began to infiltrate from 
the Reichswald onto the landing zones. 
Some of this infiltration reached the 
proportions of strong local attacks, one of 
which encircled a company of the 508th 
Parachute Infantry near Wyler and others 
which exerted troublesome pressure 
against easternmost contingents of the 
505th Parachute Infantry. The enemy 
troops probably were advance guards of 
Corps Feldt's 406th (Landesschuetzen) 
Division, only "line-of-communications" 
troops, as American intelligence soon 
fathomed, but supported by flak wagons 
mounting 20-mm. antiaircraft guns. 61 

Since Allied tow planes and gliders 
took off from England at 1000, their 
arrival soon after midday was almost a 
certainty. In preparation, Colonel Lind- 
quist released the reserve company of 
Colonel Warren's battalion of the 508th 
Parachute Infantry to battalion control 
and directed that the company secure a 
line of departure overlooking the northern 
landing zone. After the other two com- 
panies had withdrawn from the Keizer 
Karel Plein in Nijmegen, they moved to 
assist in the clearing operation. The 
505th Parachute Infantry scheduled one 
company to clear the other landing zone 
in an attack to begin at 1 240. 

As events developed, German pressure 
against the 505th Parachute Infantry was 
so strong that the designated company 
was not freed for its attack without some 
difficulty. Fortunately, resistance on the 
landing zone itself proved light and dis- 
organized. The southern landing zone 
was cleared with a half hour to spare. 

Opposition on the northern landing 



cl Evng Sitrep, A Gp B, 2000, 18 Sep 44, A 
Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung; 82d Abn Div G-2 
Rpt 92 and Jnl, 18 Sep 44. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



167 



zone was stiff er. Beginning at 1300, 
after the troops had made a forced march 
of eight miles from Nijmegen, the attack 
by Colonel Warren's battalion might have 
stalled in the face of intense small arms 
and flak gun fire had not the paratroopers 
charged the defenders at a downhill run. 
At the last minute, the Germans panicked. 
It was a photo finish, a "movie-thriller 
sight of landing gliders on the LZ as the 
deployed paratroops chased the last of the 
Germans from their 16 20-mm. guns." 02 
The enemy lost 50 men killed and 150 
captured. Colonel Warren's battalion in- 
curred but 1 1 casualties. 

The gliders had been flown in via the 
northern air route over the Dutch islands. 
Totaling 450, they brought primarily the 
last of General Gavin's artillery, one para- 
chute and two glider battalions. Follow- 
ing the gliders by about twenty minutes, a 
flight of 135 B-24 bombers dropped re- 
supply south of Groesbeek. A good drop 
pattern resulted in an estimated recovery 
of about 80 percent. 

Involving not only the 82d Airborne 
Division but the British and the 101st 
Airborne Division as well, these new land- 
ings on D plus 1 gave the Germans a jolt. 
This was in spite of the fact that the 
omniscient Hitler had predicted the 
course. "Tomorrow," the Fuehrer had 
noted at his D-Day conference, "they will 
surely come back; they are making such a 
fuss — appeal to the Dutch, and all that 
. . . ." 63 The possibility which disturbed 
the Germans on the scene was that the 
new landings might mean arrival of ad- 
ditional Allied divisions. Several hours 



02 508th Prcht Inf AAR. 

63 Minutes of Hitler Conference, 17 Sep 44 
(Fragment No. 42). 



passed before German intelligence deter- 
mined the true nature of the reinforcement. 

The gliders having arrived, the 82d 
Airborne Division by midafternoon of D 
plus 1 was in a position to focus attention 
upon gaining a bridge over the Waal at 
Nijmegen. Though enemy pressure from 
the Reichswald had been troublesome, it 
was more a "feeling out" than actual at- 
tack. "The intent was," noted the 82d 
Airborne Division G-2, Colonel Winton, 
"to apply pressure and gain informa- 
tion." 64 Noteworthy German counter- 
action had not developed elsewhere, except 
in the neighborhood of the 505th Para- 
chute Infantry's reserve battalion west of 
Groesbeek where two somewhat bizarre 
incidents had occurred. After nightfall of 
D-Day, a German-operated railroad train 
had slipped out of Nijmegen and es- 
caped through Groesbeek to the east. 
Before daylight on D plus 1, another train 
had tried it. This one the paratroopers 
knocked out with a bazooka and small 
arms fire. Though many of the Ger- 
mans aboard escaped into the surround- 
ing woods, they eventually were rounded 
up, sometimes only after hot little 
skirmishes. 

A battalion each of the 505th and 
508th Infantry Regiments had acted of- 
fensively during the day to improve the 
division's over-all position. A battalion of 
the 505th had cleared the village of Mook, 
southeast of Heumen, on the important 
Venlo-Nijmegen highway. Colonel Men- 
dez' battalion of the 508th had secured 
Beek, at the foot of the ridge below Hotel 
Berg on Dal, and established roadblocks 
there astride the Kleve-Nijmegen highway. 

If the few instances where casualties 
were recorded could be taken as indica- 



4 82d Abn Div G-2 Rpt 92, 18 Sep 44. 



168 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



tion, American losses had been- light. On 
D-Day, for example, one battalion of the 
504th Parachute Infantry had incurred 19 
casualties. On D plus 1 the entire 505th 
Parachute Infantry had lost 63 men. 
The battalion of the 508th Parachute 
Infantry which was defending near Hatert 
lost but 7 men wounded on D-Day. 
Enemy killed were an estimated 150; 
German prisoners, 885. 60 

The situation had been relatively quiet 
in the sector of the 504th Parachute 
Infantry between the Maas-Waal Canal 
and the Maas River and in the bridgehead 
south of the river, though some concern 
still existed that the enemy might move 
from the west against the 504th. Neither 
had the enemy been markedly trouble- 
some in the sector of the battalion of the 
508th Parachute Infantry, which was just 
across the canal near Hatert. Parts of 
both these units, General Gavin must 
have reasoned, might be used in a new 
attack against the Nijmegen highway 
bridge. 

In response to a request from General 
Browning, the British Airborne Corps com- 
mander, General Gavin in midafternoon 
of 18 September outlined a plan for seiz- 
ing the bridge that night. He intended 
using a battalion of the 504th Parachute 
Infantry "in conjunction with" the 508th 
Parachute Infantry to envelop the bridge 
from the east and west. 68 

General Browning at first approved this 
plan. Then, "on giving it more thought, 
[and] in view of the situation in the 30th 
Corps, he felt that the retention of the 
high ground S[outh] of Nijmegen was of 



05 Ibid.; 504th and 505th Prcht Inf AARs; 
508th Prcht Inf Jnl file, 17 Sep-16 Oct 44. 

06 82d Abn Div CofS Jnl, 0700, 19 Sep 44, 
reporting a conf held at 1530, 18 Sep 44. See 
also Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 8 Jul 55. 



greater importance, and directed that the 
primary mission should be to hold the 
high gr[ound] and retain its position 
W[est] of the Maas-Waal Canal." 
General Gavin thereupon apparently 
called off the projected attack; for he "is- 
sued an order for the defence of the 
position." 87 

The "situation in the 30th Corps" to 
which General Browning referred cer- 
tainly represented no incentive for urgency 
at Nijmegen. At this time, contact be- 
tween the ground column and the 101st 
Airborne Division at Eindhoven still was 
two and a half hours away. It might be 
a long time before the ground column 
reached Nijmegen. 

Whether the prospects of difficulty in 
holding the high ground in the 82d Air- 
borne Division's sector justified delay in 
renewing the attack at Nijmegen, even in 
view of the "situation in the 30th Corps," 
was a matter for conjecture. Few con- 
crete indications that the Reichswald was 
rife with German armor, or even infantry, 
had developed. Civilians had told men of 
the 505th Parachute Infantry on D-Day 
that the Germans had no armor in the 
Reichswald. Patrols from the 505th had 
found no armor. One patrol reported 
that the "high ground" in the Reichswald 
was unoccupied. "Towers are empty, 
woods are tank obstacles — too thick." 68 
The 82d Airborne Division's G-2 esti- 
mated that the enemy had "probably two 
battalions of mixed L[ine] of Commu- 
nications] Troops" in the Reichswald, 
though he modified this low evaluation 
by listing first among enemy capabilities 
the likelihood of continuing piecemeal 
attacks, "but in increasing strength," 

67 Ibid. 

68 S-i Jnl, 2040, 17 Sep, in 505th Prcht Inf 
AAR. 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



169 



from the forest. 69 No tangible incidents 
of armor in action had developed; most 
vehicles reported as tanks turned out to 
be flak wagons. 70 

On the other hand, General Gavin re- 
called later that the "Dutch underground 
chief" told him during the morning of 18 
September that "the Germans were in 
strength both with armor and infantry in 
the Reichswald area." 71 The division in- 
telligence section noted early on 18 Sep- 
tember that "civilians continue to report 
massing of German troops in the Reichs- 
wald Forest." 72 In late afternoon of the 
same day ninety-seven Spitfires and Mus- 
tangs of the British 2d Tactical Air Force 
bombed and strafed the Reichswald in 
response to a request from General 
Gavin. 73 The 82d's airborne artillery de- 
livered harassing fire on the forest from 
time to time. 74 

No matter what the true situation in 
the Reichswald — which no one could have 



09 82d Abn Div G-2 Rpt 92, 18 Sep 44. 

70 82d Abn Div G-2 Jnl, 17-18 Sep 44. 

71 Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 8 Jul 55. General 
Gavin's recollection is supported by Bestebreurtje, 
letter to OCMH, 25 October 1956. 

72 82d Abn Div G-2 Jnl, entry dtd 0515, 18 
Sep 44. 

73 A detailed analysis of tactical air support in 
Operation Market may be found in Weapons 
Systems Evaluation Group, A Historical Study 
of Some World War II Airborne Operations, 
WSEG Staff Study No. 3, pp. 160-64, copy in 
OCMH files. The incident on D plus 1 was one 
of the few instances, other than on D Day, when 
tactical air made any substantial contribution to 
direct support of U.S. troops on the ground in 
this operation. Adverse weather was partly re- 
sponsible. Also, technical problems prevented 
aircraft of the 2d Tactical Air Force from 
operating while Eighth Air Force fighters were 
escorting the various lifts of airborne troops and 
supplies. The effect of these two factors resulted 
on occasion in a local German air superiority, 
a surprising paradox in view of Allied air 
superiority in the theater. 

74 See 504th Prcht Inf S-3 Jnl, 18 Sep 44. 



known with any certainty at this point — 
General Gavin endorsed the corps com- 
mander's view that the best practice for 
the moment was to focus upon holding 
what he had. General Gavin's confi- 
dence in the ability of his paratroopers 
made the decision easier. "To those on 
the ground," he recalled later, "there was 
no doubt . . . that the bridge would be 
captured and it would be captured in 
time to relieve the Arnhem forces." 
General Gavin's earlier experience in air- 
borne combat reinforced this view. He 
recalled later: "Experience indicated 
that we could expect a linkup in about 
two days and we felt quite sure of one in 
three. If, therefore, by the end of the 
third day the bridge were in my hands, 
and I had fought a good battle with 
whatever might develop in the remainder 
of the area, I felt that I would have been 
fortunate enough to have done a good job 
as planned." 75 On the basis of this 
theory, General Gavin had another full 
day in which to tackle the Germans at 
Nijmegen. 

Perhaps the ultimate test of how urgent 
was the need for the bridge at Nijmegen 
lay not in the "situation in the 30th 
Corps" but in the status of the British 
airborne troops farther north at Arnhem. 
But this no one at Nijmegen — including 
both General Gavin and General Brown- 
ing — knew much about. The only report 
that had been received on the fighting at 
Arnhem had arrived through the 505th 
Parachute Infantry at 1040 on 18 Septem- 
ber. An intelligence unit of the Nether- 
lands Interior Forces, located in this 
regiment's sector, had a telephone line to 
Arnhem. Because the telephone network 
was one connecting power stations and 



75 Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 Jan 54. 



170 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



waterworks and messages over it had to 
be disguised as technical messages con- 
cerning the operations of these public 
utilities, the message about the fighting at 
Arnhem was necessarily brief. 

The 505th Parachute Infantry noted 
the message this way: "Dutch Report 
Germans Winning over British at Arn- 
hem." 76 . 

The Red Devils at Arnhem 

For all the lack of details, the message 
from the Dutch had not failed to state 
the situation as it actually existed with 
the 1st British Airborne Division at Arn- 
hem. Having jumped into the quickest 
enemy build-up of any of the three Allied 
divisions, the paratroopers soon had found 
themselves in a bad way. The Germans 
were winning over the British at Arnhem. 77 

The British misfortunes had not begun 
with the D-Day landings. Like the two 
American divisions, men of the 1st Air- 
borne Division — who called themselves 
Red Devils — experienced phenomenally 
successful nights, drops, and glider land- 
ings. Not an aircraft was lost as 331 
planes and 319 gliders dropped or de- 
posited their loads with almost 1 00-percent 
success on the correct drop and landing 
zones. Unlike the Americans, the British 
sent their gliders in first. They brought 
an air-landing brigade, which was to 

70 82d Abn Div G-2 Jnl, entry dtd 1040, 18 
Sep 44; Ltr, Bestebreurtje to OCMH. 

77 This account is based primarily on 1st Abn 
Div, Rpt on Opn Market, Pt. 1. See also 
FAAA, Opns in Holland; Hq Br Abn Corps, 
Allied Abn Opns in Holland; Boeree, The Truth 
About the Supposed Spy at Arnhem; Boeree, 
correspondence with the author, in OCMH files; 
and a colorful account in By Air to Battle, the 
Official Account of the British Airborne Divisions 
(London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1945), 
PP- 93 ff- 



protect the drop and landing zones, plus a 
light regiment of artillery and lesser anti- 
tank, medical, and reconnaissance units. 
Close behind the gliders came a parachute 
brigade with the primary mission of seiz- 
ing the highway bridge over the Neder 
Rijn at Arnhem. 

The difficulties the British soon began 
to encounter arose not from any failure to 
achieve surprise. They were attributable 
to chance presence of General Bittrich's 
II SS Panzer Corps in assembly areas 
beyond the IJssel River a few miles east 
of Arnhem and to location of the British 
drop zones a long way from the objectives 
at Arnhem. Bowing to reputed difficul- 
ties of terrain and flak concentrations 
close to the city, the planning staffs had 
selected drop zones six to eight miles 
away, northwest of the suburb of Ooster- 
beek. By the time the parachutists could 
assemble and approach the bridge, four 
invaluable hours had passed. 

The location of the drop and landing 
zones imposed an added burden in that 
the troops defending these zones could 
take no part in the main action. They 
would be tied up for three days until the 
three successive lifts had arrived. This 
meant that on D-Day only a brigade 
would be available for seizing and holding 
the main objectives. These objectives in- 
cluded not only the bridge at Arnhem but, 
as in the case of the 8 2d Airborne Divi- 
sion, high ground. This was the high 
ground north of Arnhem, its capture 
essential to fulfilling one of the 1st Air- 
borne Division's missions of providing a 
bridgehead of sufficient size to enable the 
30 Corps to pass through. 

The Red Devils had not long to wait to 
experience the difficulties emanating both 
from the dispersion of effort and the 
presence of the SS panzer troops east of 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



171 



Arnhem. Of three parachute battalions, 
two ran into serious difficulty almost 
at the outset. One heading northeast 
toward the high ground, the other moving 
east toward Arnhem, they both encoun- 
tered armored reconnaissance patrols or 
advance guards of the gth SS Panzer 
Division. When darkness came on D- 
Day, the two British battalions still were 
held up, one near Wolfheze Station, about 
two miles northwest of Oosterbeek, the 
other on the western outskirts of Ooster- 
beek. This left but one British battalion 
moving toward the vital bridge over the 
Neder Rijn. 

Commanded by Lt. Col. J. D. Frost, 
this battalion bypassed the Germans at 
Oosterbeek by taking a secondary road 
close to the river. En route toward Arn- 
hem, one company detoured to capture 
the railroad bridge, only to see the Ger- 
mans blow it. "It seemed," said one 
man, "to curl back on us . . . ." 78 
Another company became involved in a 
fire fight in outlying buildings of Arnhem. 
This left but one company and the 
battalion headquarters to sneak through 
back streets toward the north end of the 
highway bridge. At 2030 this little band 
under Colonel Frost seized the north end. 
The bridge still was intact. 

During the night another company also 
broke through to the bridge, but of the 
third, only remnants escaped from the 
fight in Arnhem. Colonel Frost's force 
ai the highway bridge numbered at peak 
strength about 500. 

Colonel Frost tried twice that night to 
capture the south end of the bridge, once 
by attacking across the bridge and again 
by sending a platoon across the river in 
rowboats. Both attempts failed. As day- 



s By Air to Battle, p. 102. 



light came of D plus 1, the men holed up 
in buildings about the north end to begin 
a dogged defense of their precarious grip 
on this vital prize. 

Not long after daybreak ( 1 8 Septem- 
ber) the enemy orders and preparations 
of the night before began to show effect. 
From the west, Division von Tettau, the 
haphazard collection of rear echelon and 
regional defense units belonging to the 
Armed Forces Commander Netherlands, 
attacked the air-landing brigade which 
was defending the drop and landing zones 
near Wolfheze Station. From the east, 
the bulk of the gth SS Panzer Division, 
and possibly some of the 10th SS, by- 
passed Colonel Frost's little band at the 
highway bridge, pushed through Arnhem, 
and attacked westward, apparently in an 
attempt to link with Division von Tettau.' 9 

The presence of the SS troops thwarted 
reinforcement of Colonel Frost at the 
bridge. Spurred by radio appeals for 
help, the two battalions of the British 
parachute brigade which had been held 
up on D-Day sideslipped to the south 
early on D plus 1 to try to reach the 
bridge. As they entered the western 
fringe of Arnhem, they ran head on into 
the attacking Germans. This rather than 
new airborne landings in reality stalled the 
German attack. Yet the meeting engage- 
ment brought high British casualties. 
Entire companies were cut off, and only 
shattered remnants survived. 80 In late 
afternoon the remaining men of one 

70 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0200, 19 Sep 44, A 
Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

80 With one encircled group was the brigade 
commander, Brig. G. W. Lathbury. Seriously 
wounded, he had to be left behind. Many days 
later, after having been treated for wounds at a 
German-controlled hospital, Brigadier Lathbury 
escaped and eventually led some 120 Red Devils 
through enemy lines to gain the south bank of the 
Neder Rijn. See By Air to Battle, pp. 1 30-131. 



172 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



battalion, numbering about 140, launched 
a last effort to reach the bridge. They 
could make no headway. 

Despite Division von Tettaus pressure 
against the air-landing brigade holding 
the drop and landing zones, the British 
commander, Maj. Gen. R. C. Urquhart, 
released an understrength battalion to go 
to the aid of the parachute brigade. The 
battalion could not penetrate a German 
cordon that had closed behind the para- 
troopers. 

Delayed by the same soupy weather in 
England that had held up second lifts of 
the American divisions, the British lift on 
D plus 1 arrived about 1500. With this 
lift came the remainder of General Urqu- 
hart's division, including the other para- 
chute brigade and last contingents of the 
air-landing brigade. Although this fresh 
parachute brigade was scheduled to cap- 
ture high ground north of Arnhem, Gen- 
eral Urquhart immediately diverted a 
battalion eastward to assist the hard- 
pressed men that were trying to reach 
Colonel Frost. Another battalion at- 
tempted the original mission, while 
General Urquhart withheld the third as a 
reserve. 

The fresh paratroopers could make only 
slight inroads on the SS troops. Not 
until early the next morning (D plus 2, 
19 September) did they reach the rem- 
nants of the other battalions in the edge 
of Arnhem. Even then the composite 
force could make no appreciable gains in 
the direction of the highway bridge. 
Eventually they had to give up. Those 
who remained, no more than 200 men 
out of three battalions of paratroopers 
and one battalion from the air-landing 
brigade, filtered back after nightfall on D 
plus 2 through the German cordon to the 
vicinity of the drop and landing zones. 



Their inability to reach the highway 
bridge was all the more frustrating be- 
cause General Urquhart still had radio 
communication with Colonel Frost and 
knew that the gallant little band at the 
north end of the bridge still held out. 

The remainder of General Urquhart's 
division had been fighting in the mean- 
time against increasing odds to hold the 
drop and landing zones. Under strafing 
from German planes, shelling by mortars 
and artillery, and intense ground attacks 
from both Division von Tettau and the 
// SS Panzer Corps, the perimeter began 
to shrink. The only hope for immediate 
relief lay in the scheduled arrival during 
the afternoon of D plus 2 of the 1st Polish 
Parachute Brigade. Even this hope failed 
as the weather closed in. Only a few 
gliders and no additional paratroopers 
arrived. 

As evidenced by the lack of informa- 
tion about the British situation at General 
Browning's headquarters near Nijmegen, 
General Urquhart's communications to 
the outside had failed. His radios were 
not strong enough to transmit successfully 
from the wooded and urban districts in 
which the British had to fight. General 
Urquhart thus had no way of notifying 
British bases in England not to drop the 
day's resupply on those of the drop zones 
the Germans had by this time overrun. 
As a result of this and of the weather, 
virtually all the resupply panniers dropped 
on D plus 2 fell into German hands. 
Critical shortages in food and ammunition 
were quickly manifest. 

Pinning his hopes on arrival the next 
day of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade 
or on an early juncture with the 30 Corps 
ground column, General Urquhart dis- 
posed his depleted forces about his perim- 
eter and in other positions designed to 



INVASION FROM THE SKY 



173 



maintain a corridor to the Neder Rijn at 
the site of a ferry near Heveadorp, 
southwest of Oosterbeek. Perhaps either 
the Polish paratroopers or the ground 
column might push reinforcements across 



the river at the ferry site. Because of the 
failure of communications, General Urqu- 
hart had no way of knowing that early 
arrival of the ground column still de- 
pended upon getting a bridge at Nijmegen. 



CHAPTER VIII 



Decision on the Ground 



Those Germans who were barring the 
way at Nijmegen and who subsequently 
might oppose the ground column between 
Nijmegen and Arnhem obviously held the 
key to the outcome of Operation Market- 
Garden. Should they continue to deny 
a crossing of the Waal, the Red Devils 
near Arnhem might be systematically an- 
nihilated. 

Spearheading the 30 Corps ground 
column, reconnaissance troops of the 
Guards Armoured Division linked with 
Colonel Tucker's 504th Parachute Infan- 
try at Grave at 0820 the morning of D 
plus 2, 19 September, ( ggg Map IV.) 
Major formations of the British armor 
were not far behind. From that point 
priority of objectives within the sector of 
the 82d Airborne Division shifted un- 
questionably in the direction of the bridge 
at Nijmegen. Already at least thirty 
three hours behind schedule because of 
earlier delays south of Eindhoven and at 
Zon, the ground column had to have a 
way to get across the Waal. 

Developments on D Plus 2 
(ig September) 

Holding the objectives the 82d Airborne 
Division already had taken would be 
facilitated by the artillery and antitank 
strength that arrived with the ground 
column. In keeping with this new situa- 
tion, General Gavin adjusted his units. 
Part of the 504th Parachute Infantry 



relieved the battalion of the 508th Para- 
chute Infantry at Hatert and enabled 
this battalion to reinforce its parent regi- 
ment in defending the ridge line near 
Hotel Berg en Dal. Reducing defensive 
strength at the Maas bridge near Grave, 
General Gavin designated one battalion 
of the 504th as a new division reserve. 
The former reserve, the 2d Battalion, 
505th Parachute Infantry, which had 
been located in the woods west of Groes- 
beek, was to drive for the Nijmegen 
highway bridge. 

In early afternoon of D plus 2, 19 
September, General Gavin met the com- 
mander of the British ground column, 
General Horrocks, and told him his plan 
to take the Nijmegen bridge. He in- 
tended immediately to commit the 2d 
Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, com- 
manded by Lt. Col. B. H. Vandervoort, 
against the south end of the bridge and 
"as quickly as possible" to send another 
force across the Waal in boats to seize the 
north end. Since the paratroopers had 
not found any civilian boats to use, the 
British offered thirty-three canvas assault 
boats which were being carried in their 
engineer train and should be available 
early the next morning. 1 



1 Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 Jan 54. Gavin 
says twenty-eight boats, but most combat inter- 
views say thirty-three. In addition to sources 
previously cited for the 8 2d Abn Div, see, for this 
period, 2 1 A Gp, Operation Market-Garden, 
17—26 Sep 44. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



175 



In the meantime, the attack against the 
south end of the bridge was to begin. 
To assist the 2d Battalion, 505th, the 
British provided a company of infantry 
and a battalion of tanks of the Guards 
Armoured Division. Artillery of both the 
Guards Armoured and 82d Airborne Di- 
visions lent support. 

A small component of this force fought 
toward the south end of the railroad 
bridge over the Waal. Men of Company 
D, 505th Parachute Infantry, commanded 
by 1 st Lt. Oliver B. Carr, Jr., climbed 
aboard five British tanks and five other 
armored vehicles and at 1500 struck direct 
for the bridge through the western fringe 
of Nijmegen. They moved unopposed 
until hit by sporadic rifle fire in railroad 
marshaling yards about a thousand yards 
south of the railroad bridge. Dismount- 
ing, Lieutenant Carr's men continued 
under cover of fire from the British guns 
until, at a point less than 500 yards short 
of the bridge, small arms and 20-mm. fire 
in serious proportions blazed from a 
common off the right flank between the 
station and the railroad bridge. Though 
the infantry and tanks tried together 
through the rest of the afternoon, they 
could make no progress. At last an 
enemy 88 knocked out the lead British 
tank. The first attempt to take the rail- 
road bridge had failed. 

The main attack against the south end 
of the highway bridge had begun concur- 
rently. Following generally the same 
route through the eastern fringe of 
Nijmegen taken the day before by Captain 
Novak's Company G, the paratroopers, 
British infantry, and tanks met no resist- 
ance at first. Then the story became 
merely a variation on what had happened 
to Captain Novak and his men. 

Approaching within 300 yards of the 



small traffic circle at the edge of Hunner 
Park, the force split. One American 
company and several British tanks veered 
to the left; the British infantry, the 
remaining American paratroopers, and the 
rest of the tanks to the right. At about 
the same time, the Germans at the traffic 
circle began to react. Each street radiat- 
ing from the traffic circle became a deadly 
field of fire. Bullets and shells interlocked 
at street intersections. 

On the left, Company F under Capt. 
Hubert S. Bass inched toward the park 
through incessant fire until at last stymied 
by a log barricade which the British tanks 
could not pass. On the right, the British 
infantry, the rest of the tanks, and Com- 
pany E under 1st Lt. James J. Smith 
ploughed through deadly fire to come 
within a hundred yards of the circle. 
Here an antitank gun knocked out the 
lead tank. The fire grew more intense. 
When three more tanks were hit, the 
remaining armor and the infantry had to 
pull back. Though they tried other 
maneuvers through the afternoon — in- 
cluding blasting a path through buildings 
and advancing from rooftop to rooftop, 
the paratroopers could not negotiate the 
last few yards to the traffic circle. 

Night came. Firing on both sides grad- 
ually died down. The fourth try for the 
south end of the highway bridge had 
failed. 

The afternoon of fighting in Nijmegen 
prompted the 82d Airborne Division's 
intelligence section to revise upward earl- 
ier estimates of German strength in the 
city. The G— 2 believed now that about 
500 top-quality SS troops held the high- 
way bridge alone. They had support, he 
estimated, from an 88-mm. gun on the 
traffic circle, a 37-mm. and four 47-mm. 
guns in Hunner Park, a number of mor- 



176 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



tars, and considerable artillery north of 
the Waal. 2 

Elsewhere in the 82d Airborne Divi- 
sion's sector, D plus 2 was "a quieter 
day." 3 Through most of the day the 
enemy had nothing in the Reichswald 
but Corps Feldt's 406th {Landesschuetz- 
en) Division with but four battalions 
totaling, about 500 men combat strength. 4 
When concentrated against an isolated 
outpost or in defense of a strong natural 
position, these Germans nevertheless could 
make a stiff fight of it. To this men of 
Company A, 508th Parachute Infantry, 
could attest after fighting through the 
afternoon to secure an eminence called 
Devil's Hill. This was Hill 75.9, a high 
point east of Hotel Berg en Dal overlook- 
ing the Kleve-Nijmegen highway. In a 
determined charge covering 200 yards, 
Company A drove the Germans from the 
summit, but the enemy recovered on the 
slopes and counterattacked repeatedly 
with the support of eight machine guns. 
By nightfall Company A controlled the 
hill at a cost of seven wounded and ten 
killed, but so persistently did the Germans 
infiltrate during the night that another 
company had to flush the area the next 
morning. 

In the meantime, Company B had less 
difficulty securing the village of Wyler, a 
mile and a half to the southeast. At the 
end of D plus 2, the 508th Parachute 
Infantry had firm control of the Kleve- 
Nijmegen highway at three points: Wyler, 
Devil's Hill, and Beek. 5 



2 82d Abn Div G-2 Sitrep, 19 Sep 44. 

3 505th Prcht Inf AAR. 

4 Evg Sitrep, A Gp B, 1 9 Sep 44, A Gp B 
KTB, Letzte Meldung. 

5 508th Prcht Inf AAR. 



Another event on D plus 2 that bore 
heavily upon the fighting was continued 
bad weather. So inclement was the 
weather that little resupply could be ef- 
fected and the 325th Glider Infantry, 
scheduled to arrive on D plus 2, could not 
be flown in. This situation was to prevail 
for several days. Since General Gavin 
now was diverting much of his strength 
to Nijmegen, the lack of the glider regi- 
ment left an acute shortage of infantry 
that was heightened by the casualties the 
parachute battalions had incurred in three 
days of fighting. Company A, 508th, for 
example, in the attack on Devil's Hill had 
but 2 officers and 42 men. The com- 
manders even moved 450 glider pilots into 
the line, a measure that to many of the 
paratroopers underscored the shortage of 
infantry. 6 

During the night General Gavin desig- 
nated Colonel Tucker's 504th Parachute 
Infantry, less two companies defending 
bridges over the Maas and the Maas- 
Waal Canal, to make the amphibious 
assault across the Waal River upon which 
the main hope for getting a bridge at 
Nijmegen rested. Because the canvas as- 
sault boats were not expected to arrive 
before noon the next day, D plus 3, 20 



6 Although quick to give credit to the glider 
pilots as pilots and to many as individual ground 
fighters, neither the 82d nor 101st Airborne 
Divisions had any real praise for the pilots acting 
collectively in tactical ground units. Rapport 
and Northwood, Rendezvous With Destiny, page 
318, call glider pilots "the most uninhibited 
individualists in the Army." Much of the diffi- 
culty lay in that American pilots received jnly a 
minimum of ground training and had no tactical 
organization once they had delivered their loads. 
The subject is discussed in detail in Houston, 
Airborne Operations, Chapter VII, and in War- 
ren, Airborne Operations in World War II, 
pages 152-53' 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



177 



September, the crossing was set for 1400. 
In the meantime, in early morning of D 
plus 3, the 504th Parachute Infantry and 
two squadrons of tanks from the Guards 
Armoured Division set out to clear the 
south bank of the Waal in the vicinity of 
the designated crossing site. This was 
near the juncture of the Maas-Waal 
Canal and the Waal about a mile north- 
west of the Nijmegen railway bridge. 

This maneuver was in process and 
Colonel Vandervoort's battalion had re- 
newed the attack toward the south end of 
the Nijmegen highway bridge when the 
Reichswald suddenly developed into some- 
thing of what it had been supposed to be. 
The fighting that ensued threatened for a 
time to upset the scheduled events at 
Nijmegen. 

The change in the status of the Reichs- 
wald had begun during the preceding 
night with arrival of the first units of 
General Meindl's II Parachute Corps, 
which eventually was to assume control 
of the Nijmegen fighting from the German 
side. These first arrivals consisted of a 
Luftwaffe battalion and six battalions 
made up of heterogeneous elements 
banded together under the // Parachute 
Corps, plus a smattering of armor. 7 The 
strongest of these were two understrength 
battalions which had been training under 
the banner of the 6th Parachute Division. 
Although American intelligence thought 
these two battalions the precursors of the 
entire 6th Parachute Division, this division 
actually had been destroyed in Normandy 
and was not to be reconstituted until 



7 Mng and Evg Sitreps, A Gp B, 20 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. Mention of 
armor appears only in American accounts. 



October and would see no action until 
November. 8 

The addition of these hetereogeneous 
troops to those battalions operating under 
Corps Feldt nevertheless marked a sizable 
increase in German strength when meas- 
ured against the five understrength para- 
chute battalions responsible for holding 
almost twelve miles of front from 
Nijmegen to Wyler, thence southwest 
through Groesbeek to Riethorst and Mook. 
If concentrated adroitly, the Germans 
might attain a dangerous superiority in 
numbers, if not in fighting ability. 

The German plan was to gain control 
of the high ground by means of two 
concentric attacks converging upon Groes- 
beek. Those battalions under Corps 
Feldt were to strike from the north and 
northeast against the ridge line near Hotel 
Berg en Dal and Wyler, while those 
under the II Parachute Corps attacked 
from the south and southeast in the 
vicinity of Mook and Riethorst. 9 

A barrage from 88's, Nebelwerfer, and 
mortars at about 1100 on 20 September 
signaled the start of the German attack at 
Riethorst and Mook. Because the 1st 
Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry 
(Maj. Talton W. Long), was responsible 
for more than two miles of front in this 
vicinity, neither of these villages was de- 
fended by more than two platoons. By 
using one of the training battalions of the 

8 MS # A-898, Kampfhandlungen in Nord- 
frankreich 1944 der 6.Fallschirmjaeger-Division. 
II. Teil. Kaempfe an der Seine und Rueckzugs- 
bewegungen durch Nordfrankreich (General- 
leutnant R. von Heyking, comdr, 6th Prcht Div) ; 
MS # B-368, Einsatz und Kampf der 6. 
Fallschirmjaeger-Division vom 19.1 1.1944 bis zur 
Kapitulation (10. 5. 1945) (Generalmajor Rudolf 
Langhaeuser) . 

9 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0200, 21 Sep 44, A Gp 
B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 



178 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



6th Parachute Division at each village, 
the Germans attained a marked numerical 
superiority. 

At Riethorst close support from ten 
75-mm. pack howitzers enabled two pla- 
toons of Company B to stall the first 
German thrust. A second attack in mid- 
afternoon, featured by fire from a German 
tank that riddled American dugouts and 
machine gun positions, could not be re- 
pelled. Eventually the two platoons had 
to fall back on other positions on the high 
ground of the Kiekberg, north of the 
village. Here mortar fire and grenades 
rolled down the steep slopes helped to 
turn back every thrust. 

At Mook the situation prompted more 
concern because of the proximity of the 
village to the bridge over the Maas-Waal 
Canal at Heumen, the bridge which was 
being used in the northward movement of 
the British ground column. By 1500 the 
Germans had overrun the outposts at 
Mook. When General Gavin arrived on 
the scene, he could detect little barring the 
way between Mook and the vital Heumen 
bridge. He hurriedly sent a messenger for 
help to the Guards Armoured Division's 
Coldstream Guards Group, a unit which 
had been designated as a reserve for the 
airborne division. 10 Apparently unknown 
to General Gavin, however, the battalion 
commander, Major Long, already had 
committed his battalion reserve, two pla- 
toons of infantry that even then were 
approaching Mook from the north. In 
late afternoon six British tanks joined 
these infantry platoons in a counterattack 
that gradually drove the Germans out of 
the village. By nightfall Mook again was 
in hand, and the Heumen bridge was 
safe. In the short-lived but intense ac- 



10 Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 Jan 54. 



tion, Major Long's battalion had incurred 
casualties totaling 20 killed, 54 wounded, 
and 7 missing. A German withdrawal 
during the night and the next day facili- 
tated re-establishment of roadblocks in 
Riethorst. 11 

The combat was none the less intense 
in the north where the Germans con- 
centrated their efforts at Wyler and Beek. 
Despite close artillery support that broke 
up early strikes, two platoons of the 
508th Parachute Infantry eventually had 
to abandon Wyler. This withdrawal 
posed no special concern, however, be- 
cause of other positions on higher ground 
to the west. The point of real concern 
was at Beek where in early evening the 
Germans, in battalion strength, forced 
two platoons of parachute infantry to fall 
back up the hill toward Hotel Berg en Dal. 
General Gavin arrived here at the height 
of the crisis. "By shifting one platoon 
from one place to another, and disengag- 
ing it and shifting it again," General 
Gavin recalled later, "Colonel Mendez 
managed to contain the attack. If the 
Germans had had the wit to move even 
several hundred yards to the right they 
could have walked into the outskirts of 
Nijmegen almost unmolested . . . ." 12 

The fighting for Beek was to continue 
through most of the next day (D plus 4, 
21 September) as the 508th Parachute 
Infantry sought to regain its positions. 
At times it looked as if the Germans might 
push beyond the village onto the high 
ground at Hotel Berg en Dal, but the 
paratroopers by nightfall had reoccupied 
Beek, not to relinquish it again. 



11 Combat Intervs with Long and personnel of 
Co B, 505th Prcht Inf. 

12 Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 Jan 54. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



179 



The Fight for the Nijmegen Bridges 

In stemming the counterattacks from 
the Reichswald, the paratroopers had been 
protecting a concurrent operation by their 
comrades in arms at Nijmegen that was 
one of the most daring and heroic in all 
the Market-Garden fighting. This was 
the 504th Parachute Infantry's assault 
crossing of the 400-yard width of the Waal 
River in order to get at the north ends of 
the rail and road bridges at Nijmegen. 13 

To provide more time for preparation, 
H Hour eventually was set back an hour 
to 1500 (D plus 3, 20 September). At 
this time the 504th's 3d Battalion under 
Maj. Julian A. Cook was to cross the 
river in thirty-three plywood and canvas 
assault boats from a point near a power 
plant a mile northwest of the Nijmegen 
railway bridge. Two squadrons of Brit- 
ish tanks, a portion of another battalion 
of the 504th Parachute Infantry, and 
approximately 100 American and British 
artillery pieces were to provide fire sup- 
port. The artillery was to lay down a 
fifteen-minute preparation, including a 
smoke screen on the north bank which 
was to be filled in where necessary by the 
tank guns firing white phosphorus. Brit- 
ish planes were to bomb and strafe for 
thirty minutes before H-Hour. As soon 
as the 3d Battalion had crossed, the 1st 
Battalion under Major Harrison was to 
follow. 

As assault crossing of the Waal would 
have been fraught with difficulties even 
had it not been so hastily contrived. Not 
only is the river wide, but the current is 
swift, running eight to ten miles an hour. 
The terrain on the south bank is flat, 
exposed to observation not only from the 

13 Combat interviews on this operation are 
available in considerable detail. 



opposite bank but from Nijmegen and 
towering girders of the railroad bridge. 
Though General Gavin had intended 
that the boats be loaded from a concealed 
position within the mouth of the Maas- 
Waal Canal, the current was so swift that 
boats launched at this point would have 
been carried too far downstream. The 
paratroopers would have to embark on the 
south bank of the river, east of the canal, 
in full view of the enemy. 

Just what strength the Germans had on 
the north bank of the Waal, no one on 
the Allied side knew with any assurance. 
In reality, not long after General Gavin 
had ordered an assault crossing, Field 
Marshal Model had directed reinforce- 
ment of the SS troops in and north of 
Nijmegen with "additional forces and all 
available antitank weapons" sent south 
from Arnhem. This was to have been 
accomplished during the night of 19 Sep- 
tember in time for a counterattack to be 
launched at dawn the next day, D plus 
3. 14 The Germans en route to Nijmegen 
had to cross the Neder Rijn by the ferry 
near Huissen, because Colonel Frost's 
little band of British paratroopers still 
held the north end of the Arnhem bridge. 
Just how many "additional forces" ar- 
rived by this method was indefinite. In 
any event, the counterattack scheduled 
for dawn on D plus 3 never came off. 

On the Allied side, tension rose as H- 
Hour for the assault crossing neared. 
The British boats were delayed. Not 
until twenty minutes before H-Hour, 
almost at the time the artillery preparation 
was to begin and even as rocket-firing 
Typhoons pummeled the north bank, did 
the paratroopers get their first look at the 

14 Order, A Gp B to Armed Forces Comdr 
Netherlands and // SS Pz Corps, 2245, 19 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 



180 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



frail little craft. They were nineteen feet 
in length, of canvas with a reinforced 
plywood bottom. There were not thirty- 
three as expected; only twenty-six. To 
get all the men of the first-wave com- 
panies into the boats required dangerous 
overloading. Three engineers went along 
in each boat in order to paddle it back 
to the south bank for another load. 

Fifteen minutes before H-Hour, the 
artillery began to pound the north bank. 
After ten minutes, the artillerymen 
changed from high explosive shells to 
white phosphorus, but an erratic wind 
generally denied an effective smoke screen. 
As the paratroopers struggled toward the 
water's edge with the assault craft on 
their shoulders, the launching site lay 
naked to German observation. German 
shellfire began to fall. Allied artillery- 
men shifted again to ten minutes of high 
explosive fire. The British tanks churned 
forward to blast the north bank with 
overhead fire. Mortars of the parachute 
regiment began to cough. The assault 
was on. 

Almost from the start the crossing of 
the sprawling Waal was a nightmare. 
Because the water close to the south bank 
was shallow, the paratroopers had to wade 
far into the stream. Sometimes they 
climbed aboard where the water still was 
too shallow, then had to debark and push 
into deeper water. One boat pulled 
away, leaving a man standing behind, 
stuck in mud. As the man extricated 
himself, the current swept him into deep 
water. The commander of Company H, 
Capt. Carl W. Kappel, threw off his own 
heavy equipment, dived into the water to 
drag the man to safety, then regained his 
own boat. 

Once the boats moved into deep water, 
the strong current seized them. Unfa- 



miliar with the craft and buffeted by the 
current, the, engineers and paratroopers 
could do little but point the boats toward 
the far shore and pray that the current 
would carry them across. At least one 
boat whirled crazily for a while in a dizzy 
circle. Any hope of maintaining unit 
organization upon touching the far shore 
was quickly dispelled. 

All the while German fire rained upon 
the hapless craft. The bullets and shell 
fragments hitting the water reminded one 
man of "a school of mackerel on the feed." 
It was primarily fire from machine guns 
on the north bank and machine guns and 
20-mm. antiaircraft guns on and near 
the railway bridge, but occasionally ar- 
tillery fire from the north bank tormented 
the water. Bullets and shell fragments 
ripped the thin canvas on the assault 
boats. Some boats sank. One that was 
hit by mortar fire capsized only about 
twenty yards from the north bank, spilling 
its occupants into the water. Loaded 
down by an automatic rifle and heavy 
ammunition, Pvt. Joseph Jedlicka sank to 
the bottom in about eight feet of water. 
Holding his breath, he walked ashore 
without loss of equipment. 

Almost incredibly, half of the boats 
made it. Exhausted, dizzy from the cir- 
cumgyrations, some of the men were 
vomiting. They had gained the north 
bank, but only thirteen of the twenty-six 
boats remained to make the return trip 
for the next wave. 

Virtually devoid of unit organization, 
the paratroopers rallied individually to 
the occasion. Killing more than fifty Ger- 
mans near where the boats touched 
ground, the men dashed across an open 
field exposed to grazing fire to gain a 
diked road about 800 yards from the 
water's edge. Here they flushed Ger- 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



181 



mans with bayonets, knocked out machine 
guns with hand grenades, and forged a 
temporary defensive line to await arrival 
of succeeding waves. 

Still subject to German fire, engineers 
with the thirteen remaining assault boats 
started back to the south bank. Eleven 
boats made it. Through the course of 
the afternoon, engineers and paratroopers 
manning these eleven boats made six 
crossings of the Waal, bringing first the 
remainder of Major Cook's 3d Battalion 
and then Major Harrison's 1st Battalion. 

The operations on the north bank de- 
veloped in a series of courageous small- 
unit actions by squads and individuals 
belonging to different units. The com- 
panies had assigned objectives: Company 
H, for example, was to bypass an old 
Dutch fortress, Fort Hof van Holland, 
seize the juncture of the railroad and the 
Nijmegen-Arnhem highway, then drive 
southeast down the highway to take the 
north end of the highway bridge. Com- 
pany I was to defend against enemy 
counteraction from the northwest and 
north and, if possible, take the north end 
of the railway bridge. Yet accomplish- 
ment of few of the missions could be 
attributed to one unit alone. The cross- 
ing of the Waal had been a hopper that 
had scrambled the men almost inextric- 
ably. The commander of Company G, 
for example, discovered in late afternoon 
that in addition to many of his own men 
he was commanding much of Company 
H, a platoon of Company I, and parts of 
the battalion communications and medical 
sections. 

This handicap appeared to work little 
hardship on these veteran troops. The 
men saw jobs to be done and tried to do 
them. A platoon of Company H, sched- 
uled to bypass Fort Hof van Holland, saw 



an opportunity to take the fort and silence 
machine guns and 20-mm. antiaircraft 
guns that were firing from its towers. 
Sgt. Leroy Richmond swam underwater 
to get across a moat surrounding the fort, 
then signalled his companions to follow 
across a narrow causeway. Small groups 
of both Companies H and I converged 
on the north end of the railway bridge 
where they set up BAR's to play fire on 
the bridge until reinforcements arrived 
from Company G and the 1st Battalion. 
Parts of Companies H and I also fought 
together toward the highway bridge. 
This vital prize still was intact. 

In the meantime, in Nijmegen, Colonel 
Vandervoort's battalion of the 505th Par- 
achute Infantry, augmented by British 
infantry and tanks, at last had begun to 
wear down the defenders of the south end 
of the highway bridge. A tank-infantry 
assault at 1620 by both British and 
Americans against the traffic circle south 
of Hunner Park finally began to produce 
results. Advancing through and on top 
of buildings and up fire-raked streets and 
alleys, the infantry charged. This time 
they made it. Bolstered by the British 
tanks, they plunged on almost without 
pause into Hunner Park. The fight 
neared an end. 

The impending success in Nijmegen 
began to make trouble for the handful of 
Americans that were raking the north 
end of the railway bridge with fire, for the 
Germans began to retreat in wholesale 
numbers across the railway bridge. Not 
until the next day was it finally cleared 
of all enemy. Armament on this bridge 
alone totaled 34 machine guns, 2 20-mm. 
antiaircraft guns, and 1 88-mm. dual- 
purpose gun. 

In Nijmegen, as the British tankers 
approached the south end of the highway 



182 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



bridge, they spotted an American flag 
floating atop what they took to be the 
north end of the bridge. This the British 
assumed to be an American signal that 
the tanks could cross. In reality, the 
paratroopers still were a few steps from 
the highway bridge; the flag was flying 
from the north end of the railroad span. 
Spraying shells and machine gun bullets 
into the girders, the British tankers never- 
theless raced onto the bridge. Three 
tanks reached the far end. Three privates 
from Companies H and I, 504th Para- 
chute Infantry, got on the north end of 
the bridge at almost the same moment. 
The time was 19 10. 

A lot of hard fighting remained before 
the toehold across the Waal could be 
deemed secure. 13 but as night fell on 20 
September the fact was that the daring 
maneuver to gain the Waal bridges had 
succeeded. How and why in the light of 
all the obstacles could be explained only 
by the resourcefulness and courage of the 
men who did the job. 

The cost had been high. During the 
afternoon, Major Cook's 3d Battalion 
alone lost 28 men killed, 1 missing, and 
78 wounded. Total losses for the two 
battalions which crossed the Waal and 
Colonel Vandervoort's battalion in Nij- 
megen probably were about 200. Yet 
German losses must have been consider- 
ably more severe. On the railway bridge 



15 On 21 September, near a Dutch fortress 
northeast of the highway bridge, a bazooka 
man from the 504th Parachute Infantry, Pvt. 
John R. Towle, rushed beyond his company's 
outposts to intercept a German attack that was 
supported by two tanks and a half-track. He 
was instrumental in breaking up the thrust before 
falling mortally wounded from enemy mortar fire. 
He was posthumously awarded the Medal of 
Honor. 



alone the paratroopers subsequently 
counted 267 German dead. 

Why the Germans failed to blow either 
the railway or highway bridge was a 
matter of some conjecture. Looking at it 
from the viewpoint of German com- 
manders, the answer lay in German 
reluctance to admit until too late that 
these bridges — vital to taking effective 
countermeasures against the Allied land- 
ings — could not be held. Field Marshal 
Model himself had ordered that neither 
the bridges over the Waal nor those over 
the Neder Rijn were to be destroyed. 
Not until almost midnight on D plus 3, 
20 September, after the Allies held the 
Nijmegen bridges, had Model relented. 
"It is necessary to hold, and if necessary 
to blow up the highway bridge at 
Nijmegen," Model's chief of staff notified 
General Bittrich, commander of the II 
Panzer Corps. General Bittrich replied 
that the word had come too late. For 
two hours, he said, he had heard nothing 
from the Nijmegen garrison and assumed 
that the German units there had been 
destroyed. 

Despite this indication that the Allies 
were in control at Nijmegen, Model's chief 
of staff early the next morning, 21 Sep- 
tember, again brought up the subject of 
the bridges. "The Waal bridges will be 
destroyed in the face of enemy pressure," 
he directed. This may have been a be- 
lated attempt to cover Model's tracks in 
the expectation that failure to destroy the 
bridges would bring repercussion from 
superiors. Indeed, only a few hours 
later, OKW began to press the matter. 
Model's chief of staff admitted that hind- 
sight did reveal that "demolition would 
have been indicated. However," he 
said, "on account of the enemy attack 
from both sides on the [highway] bridge, 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



183 




Dutch Farmer Near Zon gives paratroopers a lift to their assembly area. 



the responsible commander was not able 
to blow up the bridge on his own au- 
thority." 16 

This coincided to a large degree with 
the opinion of the 82 d Airborne Division 
commander, General Gavin. He later 
attributed German failure to demolish the 
highway bridge to three factors: ( 1 ) the 
assault from both ends, ( 2 ) destruction of 
the alleged demolition control mechanism 

10 Tel Convs, CofS A Gp B to Gen Bhirich, 
2330, 20 Sep 44; CofS A Gp B to CofS // SS 
Carps, 0915, 21 Sep 44; CofS OB WEST to 
CofS A Gp B, 1355, 2: Sep 44; and CofS A Gp B 
to OKWfWFSt, 1440, 21 Sep 44. All in A Gp 
B KTB (Text). 



in the post office, and (3) the co- 
operation of the Dutch underground in 
keeping the bridge under fire so that the 
Germans could not work on the demoli- 
tions. "In my opinion, at this time," 
General Gavin wrote later, "the capture 
of the bridge intact, like the other bridges 
in the area, was the result of careful study 
and planning on the part of the para- 
chutists of the 8 2d Airborne Division who 
were assigned the task, and the careful 
carrying out of those plans by everyone 
regardless of his grade or position who 
was associated with the task. The under- 
ground played a major part in getting 
this done and they deserve a lion's share of 



184 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the credit for saving the big bridge at 
Nijmegen," 17 

Regardless of who or what saved the 
Nijmegen bridge, the contributions of the 
Dutch underground not only to the op- 
erations of the 82 d Airborne Division but 
to those of other Allied units as well 
cannot be ignored. Known officially as 
the Netherlands Interior Forces, the 
Dutch underground was one of the most 
highly organized and efficient resistance 
units in all Europe. Hardly any who 
fought in Holland were not affected in 
some manner by help from these intrepid, 
shadowy figures who moved by night. 
Dutch civilians were a constant source of 
intelligence on the enemy. Countless 
parachutists and glidermen who landed 
off the beaten track owed their safe return 
to the fearless assistance of the under- 
ground. Many times the Dutch assem- 
bled equipment and resupply bundles at 
central points where the soldiers could 
get at them easily. Many a Dutchman 
went hungry because he shared his meager 
rations with paratroopers whose resupply 
had been cut short by adverse weather. 
An officer who had visited frequently in 
the Netherlands before the war, Capt. 



17 Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 Jan 54. In 1949 
an official board of inquiry reported to the 
Netherlands Government as a majority finding 
that it was likely a young Dutchman, Jan van 
Hoof, cut some detonator wires on the bridge, 
but the board did not say whether this act 
actually saved the bridge. See Letter to OCMH 
(24 Sep 56) from Dr. L. de Jong, Executive 
Director of the Netherlands State Institute for 
War Documentation. Though the story has at- 
tracted considerable notice in the Netherlands, 
only vague and inconclusive reference to it can 
be found in Allied records. See also Gilbert R. 
Martineau, ed., Holland Travel Guide (Paris: 
Nagel, 1951), p. 528; Ltrs in OCMH files from 
Col. A. L. van den Berge, Military Attache, 
Embassy of the Netherlands, Washington, D.C.; 
and Ltr, Bestebreurtje to OCMH. 



Arie D. Bestebreurtje, jumped with the 
82d Airborne Division as commander of a 
three-man Special Forces team and co- 
ordinated the activities of the Netherlands 
Interior Forces at Nijmegen. In response 
to a Dutch request for weapons, General 
Gavin authorized Captain Bestebreurtje 
to dispense the weapons from American 
dead and wounded. General Gavin 
termed the conduct of the underground 
"exemplary." "Sleep, I have no time for 
sleep," a fatigued Dutch boy said when 
denied a request to fight in the line. 
"For four years I have been waiting for 
this. No, this is not the time for sleep." 
Some evidence indicates that at least one 
German commander was slow to move his 
troops in early stages of the airborne 
attack for fear of general Dutch uprisings. 
The Allied attack clearly benefited from 
the fact that it took place in a country 
where the population was unquestionably 
and often openly hostile to the enemy. 18 

First Attempts To Drive on Arnhem 

Counting from the time of first contact 
between the British ground column and 
the 504th Parachute Infantry at Grave at 
0820 on D plus 2, 19 September, until the 
Nijmegen bridge was taken at 19 10 on D 
plus 3, 20 September, a case could be 
made to show that the ground column was 
delayed at Nijmegen for almost thirty-five 
hours. Yet this would be to ignore the 
facts that first arrivals of the ground 
column represented no more than a for- 
ward reconnaissance screen and that 



"Almost all after action reports and combat 
interviews contain references to Dutch assistance. 
See also Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous 
With Destiny, passim; Ltr, Gavin to OCMH, 17 
Jan 54; correspondence with Colonel Boeree; and 
Ltr, Bestebreurtje to OCMH. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



185 



several hours elapsed before sizable British 
units began to arrive. Indeed, almost 
another twenty-four hours would elapse 
after capture of the Nijmegen bridge 
before the British would renew the drive 
on Arnhem. 

At nightfall on D plus 3, the British had 
at Nijmegen only the Guards Armoured 
Division. Because inclement weather con- 
tinued to deny arrival of the 82d Airborne 
Division's glider infantry, the Guards 
Armoured's Coldstream Guards Group 
still was needed as a reserve for the air- 
borne division. This left but two armored 
groups to go across the Waal. Even 
these did not make it until the next day 
(D plus 4, 21 September), primarily 
because of die-hard German defenders 
who had to be ferreted from the super- 
structure and underpinnings of the bridge. 
Once on the north bank, much of the 
British armor and infantry was used to 
help hold and improve the bridgehead that 
the two battalions of the 504th Parachute 
Infantry had forged. 19 

British commanders must have been 
aware of the necessity to get quickly to 
Arnhem. Although few details on the 
situation north of the Neder Rijn had 
emerged, some sketchy information had 
filtered back during the day through inter- 
mittent radio communication with General 
Urquhart's headquarters. Though gar- 
bled by distance and inadequate airborne 
radio sets, these fragmentary messages 
had basically confirmed the cursory Dutch 
communication of two days before. Yet 
the new details provided no occasion for 
despair. The report was that Colonel 
Frost and his little band still held the 



10 For this account of British units, see FAAA, 
Opns in Holland; Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn 
Opns in Holland; ist Abn Div, Rpt on Opn 
Market, Pt. r. 



north end of the Arnhem bridge. Though 
under constant pressure, the rest of the 
Red Devils in the perimeter at Oosterbeek 
still controlled the north end of the 
Heveadorp ferry. If the ground column 
could break through quickly, the Red 
Devils — and possibly the entire Market- 
Garden operation — still might be saved. 

For all the concern that must have 
existed about getting to Arnhem, only a 
small part of the British armor was freed 
late on D plus 4, 21 September, to start 
the northward drive. As the attack be- 
gan, British commanders saw every appre- 
hension confirmed. The ground off the 
main roads was low-lying, soggy bottom- 
land, denying employment of tanks. 
A few determined enemy bolstered with 
antitank guns might delay even a large 
force. Contrary to the information that 
had been received, Colonel Frost and his 
men had been driven away from the north 
end of the Arnhem bridge the afternoon 
before, so that since the preceding night 
the bridge had been open to German 
traffic. At the village of Ressen, less than 
three miles north of Nijmegen, the Ger- 
mans had erected an effective screen com- 
posed of an SS battalion reinforced with 
1 1 tanks, another infantry battalion, 2 
batteries of 88-mm. guns, 20 20-mm. 
antiaircraft guns, and survivors of earlier 
fighting at Nijmegen, all operating under 
General Bittrich's II SS Panzer Corps. 20 
Arnhem lay seven miles north of this 
screen. The British could not pass. 

Not until near nightfall on D plus 4 
did another British division arrive at 
Nijmegen, the 43d Infantry Division. 
Because of severe traffic congestion on the 

20 Evg Sitrep, A Gp B, 1845, 21 Sep 44, A Gp 
B KTB, Letzte Meldung; Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 
OI 35) 2 3 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen; 
Bittrich Questionnaire, copy in OCMH. 



186 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



lone highway extending from the Dutch- 
Belgian border to Nijmegen, it had taken 
three days for this division to travel sixty 
miles. The infantry would not attack 
until the next day, D plus 5, 22 Sep- 
tember. 21 

Only one other possibility did the Allies 
have for helping the Red Devils at Arnhem 
on 21 September. By 1400 cloud above 
air bases in England at last had cleared 
sufficiently to enable parachutists of the 
1st Polish Parachute Brigade to take to 
the air. Under a new plan, the Poles 
were to drop close to the village of Driel, 
near the southern terminus of the Hevea- 
dorp ferry. During the night they were 
to cross the river by ferry in order to 
strengthen the British perimeter on the 
north bank until the 30 Corps might 
break through. 

Unfortunately, weather over the Con- 
tinent had not cleared. Of no planes, 
only 53 dropped their loads. Those who 
jumped included the brigade commander, 
Maj. Gen. S. Sosabowski, and the equiv- 
alent of two weak battalions, a total of 
750 men. After overcoming minor op- 
position on the drop zone, General 
Sosabowski made the disheartening dis- 
covery that but a short while earlier the 
Germans had driven the British from the 
north end of the ferry site and sunk the 
ferry boat. Although General Urquhart 
radioed that his Red Devils would attack 
immediately to regain the site, the theory 
that the weakened, closely confined Brit- 
ish could recapture it was, no matter how 
admirable, wholly chimerical. 

By now the Red Devils had been con- 
fined to a perimeter at Oosterbeek less 
than half a mile wide and a mile and a 

21 Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, pages 
514-16, vividly describes the traffic problems on 
the highway. 



half deep. In that perimeter the day 
(21 September) had brought no brighter 
developments than it had outside. The 
Germans the day before had captured the 
British hospital; the plight of the wounded 
now was pitiful because of both a dearth 
of medical supplies and a lack of food and 
water. The inexorable pounding of en- 
emy guns set the ammunition depot on 
fire. The only bright spot came in late 
afternoon when an artillery observation 
unit at last established firm radio contact 
with an artillery regiment of 30 Corps. 

The news to be reported from Colonel 
Frost and his men at the Arnhem bridge 
was not good. By daylight of D plus 3, 
20 September, the British paratroopers 
had retained control of only a few build- 
ings near the bridge. During the after- 
noon of D plus 3 they had been driven by 
point-blank tank fire from the last of 
these. Some 140 able-bodied men still 
had refused to give up, but about 50 of 
these had fallen during the night. At 
dawn on D plus 4, 21 September, the or- 
der had been given to break into small par- 
ties and try to escape. None had made it. 

Keeping the Corridor Open 

For all the adversities north of the 
Neder Rijn, hope still existed as daylight 
came on D plus 5, 22 September, that the 
43 d Infantry Division might break 
through at Ressen, relieve the British 
paratroopers, and bring over-all success to 
Operation Market-Garden. The 30 
Corps commander, General Horrocks, or- 
dered the division "to take all risks to 
effect relief today." 

Yet, almost coincident with this hope, 
another major threat to the success of the 
operation was developing to the south in 
the sector of General Taylor's 101st Air- 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



187 



borne Division. Despite an aggressive 
defense designed to prevent the enemy 
from concentrating at any one crucial 
spot to cut Hell's Highway, General Tay- 
lor on 22 September was faced with report 
after report from Dutch sources of large- 
scale German movements against the nar- 
row corridor from both east and west. 
At a time when the 30 Corps needed 
everything possible in order to break 
through to the Red Devils, severance of 
the vital lifeline could prove disastrous. 

One reason the 101st Airborne Division 
still faced a major task in holding open 
the corridor was the slow progress of the 
attacks of the 8 and 12 British Corps on 
either flank of the corridor. West of the 
corridor, the 12 Corps, controlling three 
divisions, had begun to attack during the 
evening of D-Day, 17 September; but by 
D plus 5, when the reports of German 
concentration began to give General Tay- 
lor genuine concern, the 12 Corps still 
was several miles south and southwest of 
Best. East of the corridor, the numer- 
ically weaker 8 Corps had begun to attack 
before daylight on D plus 2, 19 September, 
but by D plus 5 still was southeast of 
Eindhoven. Both corps had run into 
stanch resistance and had found the 
marshy terrain an obstacle of major 
proportions. As Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery was to put it later, progress was 
"depressingly slow." 22 

The 1 01 st Airborne Division com- 
mander, General Taylor, had recognized 
since late on D plus 2, 19 September, 
when his command post and the Bailey 
bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Zon 
had almost fallen to the first strike of the 
107th Panzer Brigade, that his division 



22 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 
230-43. 



had entered a second and more difficult 
phase of the fighting. The point was 
underscored in the morning mist of D 
plus 3, 20 September, when the iojth 
Panzer Brigade struck again at the Zon 
bridge. Though a reinforced battalion of 
infantry had been disposed to guard the 
bridge, German tank guns soon controlled 
the bridge by fire. The bridge might 
have fallen to the Germans had not ten 
British tanks belatedly responded to an 
SOS dating from the crisis of the night 
before. Knocking out four German 
tanks, the British forced the enemy back. 

Recognizing that he had not the 
strength to maintain a static defense along 
the 15-mile length of Hell's Highway, 
General Taylor on D plus 3 chose the 
alternative. He would keep the Germans 
surprised and off balance with limited 
offensive thrusts of his own. 

Perhaps the most successful of these 
was a maneuver on D plus 3 by Colonel 
Kinnard's battalion of the 501st Para- 
chute Infantry. Although Colonel Kin- 
nard had a company outposting the 
village of Heeswijk, four and a half miles 
northwest of Veghel, the Germans had 
infiltrated in some strength along the 
Willems Canal between Heeswijk and 
Veghel. Using the bulk of his battalion, 
Colonel Kinnard drove northwest along- 
side the canal to sweep these Germans 
into Heeswijk, where the outpost company 
played the role of a dust pan. It was a 
classic maneuver, a little Cannae, which 
by the end of the day had accounted for 
about 500 Germans, including 418 pris- 
oners. 

On D plus 4, 21 September, a recon- 
naissance by a company of Colonel 
Michaelis' 502d Parachute Infantry en- 
countered stiff resistance near the village 
of Schijndel, four and one half miles 



188 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



northwest of St. Oedenrode. This coin- 
cided with civilian reports that the 
Germans were concentrating south of 
Schijndel for a counterattack upon St. 
Oedenrode. Impressed by Colonel Kin- 
nard's successful maneuver the day before, 
Michaelis and the commander of the 
501st Parachute Infantry, Colonel John- 
son, decided to press the Germans near 
Schijndel between them. Two battalions 
of Johnson's regiment were to take 
Schijndel from the north. Thereupon 
two of Michaelis' battalions were to attack 
northward against the German force that 
was south of the village. 

In a swift move after dark on D plus 4, 
Colonel Johnson took Schijndel not long 
after midnight (21 September). Al- 
though a surprise counterattack against 
the village at dawn delayed start of the 
second phase of the planned maneuver, 
Colonel Michaelis' two battalions were 
able to begin their role by midmorning 
(D plus 5, 22 September). Progressing 
smoothly, the attack gave promise of 
bountiful success. Then, abruptly, at 
1430, an urgent message from General 
Taylor forced a halt. 

While these four battalions had fought 
near Schijndel, General Taylor had 
learned that the Germans were concentrat- 
ing for a major blow to sever Hell's High- 
way. During the morning, a drive on 
Nuenen, southeast of Zon, had revealed 
that a German column contacted there the 
day before had gone elsewhere. This co- 
incided with report after report from the 
Dutch of enemy movements both east and 
west of the Allied corridor. Indications 
were that the Germans intended a con- 
vergent attack in the vicinity of Veghel 
and Uden. Lying five miles northeast of 
Veghel astride Hell's Highway, Uden 
heretofore had been ignored by the Ger- 



mans and unoccupied by the Americans. 

General Taylor had ample reason for 
concern. A strong convergent attack 
upon Veghel was, in reality, the German 
plan. The plan had emerged from orders 
issued by Field Marshal Model the day 
before (D plus 4, 21 September). 23 
While General Bittrich's // SS Panzer 
Corps and General Meindl's // Parachute 
Corps stepped up their operations against 
the British at Arnhem and the Americans 
at Nijmegen, General Student's First Par- 
achute Army was to sever the Allied 
corridor farther south. 

The spot Field Marshal Model chose 
was Veghel. Pushed back by the British 
ground attack on D-Day and by the 
subsequent drive of the 12 British Corps, 
General Reinhard's LXXXVlll Corps 
now was located west of Veghel and 
might mount an attack from that direc- 
tion. On the east the attack was to be 
mounted by a headquarters new to the 
fighting, the LXXXVI Corps under Gen- 
eral der Infanterie Hans von Obstfelder. 
This headquarters Model had moved up 
hurriedly on D plus 1 to assume control 
of Division Erdmann and the 176th Di- 
vision in order that General Student might 
give undivided attention to other units 
more directly involved against the Allied 
airborne operation. 24 General von Obst- 
felder now was to assume a more active 
role. 

In the attack from the east, Obstfelder 
was to employ a force thrown together 
under Colonel Walther, who earlier had 
commanded a Kampfgruppe along the 
Meuse-Escaut Canal. The new Kampf- 
gruppe Walther would control Major von 

23 Order, A Gp B to all subordinate commands, 
1700, 21 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB Operationsbefehle. 

24 See Mng Sitrep, A Gp B, 1000, 18 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



189 



Maltzahn's iojth Panzer Brigade, a small 
contingent of the ioth SS Panzer Division 
(Kampfgruppe Heinke) that had earlier 
been used against the XIX U.S. Corps 
east of Maastricht, an artillery battalion 
with three howitzer batteries (105's and 
150's), and an infantry battalion of the 
1 80th Division, the last an advance con- 
tingent of a replacement division which 
had been scraped together hurriedly by 
Wehrkreis X. 

From the west, General Reinhard's 
LX XXV III Corps was to employ a regi- 
mental combat team of the §gth Division 
that had been shored up with replace- 
ments after a disastrous initial commit- 
ment at Best. Commanded by Major 
Huber, this force included three infantry 
battalions, a battalion of 105-mm. howit- 
zers, a battery of 150-mm. howitzers, a 
battery of 20-mm. antiaircraft guns, seven 
antitank guns, and four Panther tanks. 
The axis of attack for Kampfgruppe 
Huber was from Schijndel through the 
villages of Wijbosch and Eerde to Veghel. 
Kampfgruppe Walther was to strike from 
Gemert through the village of Erp, three 
miles southeast of Veghel. 25 

On the American side, the maneuver 
near Schijndel during the morning of 22 
September was occupying the bulk of 
Colonel Johnson's 501st Parachute In- 
fantry, but one battalion of that regiment 
still was in defensive positions in Veghel. 
Yet not a man was in Uden, the other 
place which the Americans believed the 
Germans would strike. To Uden General 
Taylor turned his attention first. 

The job of defending Uden General 
Taylor gave to Colonel Sink's 506th Para- 

25 TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 0600, 22 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle; MS # B- 
149 (Poppe) ; Noon Sitrep, A Gp B, 1330, 22 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. 



chute Infantry, which was becoming 
available as British ground troops took 
over farther south around Eindhoven and 
Zon. Upon first word of the threat, 
Colonel Sink hurriedly collected about 150 
men from a rifle platoon and his regi- 
mental headquarters company and rushed 
them northward by truck. At 1100, 22 
September, they reached Uden. Only a 
few minutes later the Germans appeared. 
For the remainder of D plus 5 and into 
the next day, the men of this little force 
dashed from house to house in Uden to 
spread their fire and give an impression of 
strength. They were fortunate that the 
Germans were concentrating instead upon 
Veghel. 

In the main attack, Kampfgruppe 
Walther advanced through the village of 
Erp against Veghel shortly before noon. 
Commanded by Lt. Col. Robert A. Ballard, 
the lone American battalion in Veghel 
waited in houses and foxholes along the 
Erp road. In a stint of furious fighting, 
Colonel Ballard's men warded off the first 
German blow, but they could see part of 
the German column sideslip to the north- 
west. Unopposed in this direction, 
Kampfgruppe Walther with tanks of the 
iojth Panzer Brigade in the lead readily 
cut Hell's Highway between Veghel and 
Uden. Then the tanks turned down the 
highway toward Veghel. 26 

Had it not been for the warnings of the 
Dutch underground, Kampfgruppe Wal- 



20 For the story of the defense of Veghel, the 
author is indebted to Rapport and Northwood, 
Rendezvous With Destiny, pp. 352 ff. The 
authors of this authoritative work conducted 
additional interviews and correspondence to sup- 
plement unit records and combat interviews. 
See also battalion histories of the 327th Glider 
Infantry in combat interview files of the 101st 
Airborne Division, plus unit journals and after 
action reports. 



190 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



ther might have found in Veghel only 
Colonel Ballard's battalion and surprised 
British truck drivers who were trapped by 
the cutting of the highway. But upon 
receipt of Dutch warnings, General Tay- 
lor had acted swiftly. In addition to 
alerting Colonel Sink's 506th Parachute 
Infantry to move to Uden, he told the 
commander of the 327th Glider Infantry, 
Colonel Harper, to release a battalion 
from defense of the glider landing zone 
and send it to Veghel. Two battalions of 
infantry thus were advancing toward 
Veghel even as the German tanks turned 
toward the town. 

Having come into Veghel during the 
morning to select a new division command 
post, the 10 1st Airborne Division's artillery 
commander, Brig. Gen. Anthony C. Mc- 
Auliffe, was at hand to co-ordinate the 
defense. Spotting a 57-mm. antitank gun 
of the 8 1 st Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion, 
General McAuliffe yelled to get the gun 
forward. 

Divining the urgency of the situation, 
Colonel Harper meantime had intercepted 
his glider infantry battalion that was 
moving over back roads in deference to 
British priority on the main highway. He 
directed the battalion commander, Lt. 
Col. Ray C. Allen, to ignore the ban on 
travel on the main road. At the same 
time he told Colonel Allen's motorized 
antitank platoon to thread through traffic 
that was coagulating along the highway 
and race at full speed into Veghel. 

Almost simultaneously, the 57-mm. an- 
titank gun and the antitank platoon from 
the 327th Glider Infantry arrived at the 
northeastern fringe of Veghel. A dispute 
was to arise later between crews of these 
guns as to which fired the first shot, but 
what mattered at the moment was that 
the first round struck the leading Mark V 



squarely and set it afire. Faced with 
what they could not recognize immedi- 
ately as only a makeshift defense, the 
other German tankers backed away. 

The delay thus imposed gave General 
McAuliffe time to get set. He directed 
the battalion of the 506th Parachute In- 
fantry into position astride Hell's Highway 
in the northeast. Colonel Allen's battal- 
ion of the 327th Glider Infantry he ordered 
to defend in the north near a railroad 
bridge over the Aa River. General Mc- 
Auliffe requested air support, but unfav- 
orable weather denied any substantial 
assistance from that quarter. 

Though the timely arrival of antitank 
guns had stymied Kampfgruppe Walther 
temporarily, this was but half of the 
German strength. Kampfgruppe Huber 
was even then striking toward Veghel 
from the west. 

Because the Americans had taken 
Schijndel the night before, Major Huber 
had had to alter his plan of attack. Di- 
verting an infantry battalion as a screen 
against Schijndel, he had advanced with 
the rest of his force along back roads and 
trails to Eerde, thence along a highway to 
Veghel. 27 About 1400 (22 September) 
Major Huber's tanks and artillery brought 
fire to bear upon the bridge over the 
Willems Canal at Veghel. 

Once again General McAuliffe could 
thank the fortuitous arrival of fresh troops. 
General Taylor's order to the 506th Para- 
chute Infantry to move to Uden was 
paying off, not in the defense of Uden but 
of Veghel. Even as the Germans took 
the bridge under fire, another battalion of 
the 506th Parachute Infantry arrived 
from the south in company with a squad- 
ron of British tanks. Discouraged, Major 
Huber's tanks and infantry recoiled. 

"MS # B-149 (Poppe). 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



191 



If he could not get to Veghel, Major 
Huber must have reasoned, still he might 
cut Hell's Highway. Rallying his men 
quickly, he sideslipped to the south. Ad- 
vance elements actually had crossed the 
highway when once again American 
reinforcements arrived, this time the two 
remaining battalions of Colonel Harper's 
327th Glider Infantry. Using marching 
fire, the glidermen quickly drove the 
Germans back. 

It was Major Huber's attack at 1400 
that had prompted the message to Colonel 
Johnson at Schijndel which in effect 
ended American attempts to eliminate the 
Germans south of that village. Although 
the message directed only that he release 
a squadron of attached British tanks to 
move to Veghel, Colonel Johnson did not 
stop there. Aware that defense of Veghel 
was his responsibility, he called off the 
maneuver at Schijndel and directed both 
his battalions to Veghel. 

By the time these two battalions had 
fought through rear elements of Kampj- 
gruppe Huber to reach the villages of 
Wijbosch and Eerde, General McAuliffe 
already had obtained sufficient strength 
for defending Veghel. Colonel Johnson 
therefore directed one battalion to defend 
at Wijbosch, the other at Eerde. These 
two battalions thus became the western 
segment of the Veghel defensive arc. In 
the process they in effect cut off Kampf- 
gruppe Huber. Only a fraction of Major 
Huber's infantry escaped. 28 

Through the rest of the afternoon of 
22 September, German artillery pounded 
Veghel, and Kampfgruppe Walther 
launched one strong attack and several 
probing thrusts. Yet the enemy would 

28 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0135, 23 Sep 44, A 
Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen; MS # B-149 
(Poppe). 



have to show greater strength if he were 
to succeed at Veghel, for General Mc- 
Auliffe now had in defense of the town a 
total of eight infantry battalions. These 
included two battalions of the 506th 
Parachute Infantry, all of the 501st Para- 
chute Infantry, and all of the 327th Glider 
Infantry. Some guns of the airborne 
artillery, some British pieces gathered 
from the highway, and two squadrons of 
British tanks also had been included with- 
in the perimeter. 

No matter how sanguine General Mc- 
Auliffe might be about defending Veghel, 
the task was not so much holding the 
village as it was reopening Hell's Highway 
to the northeast in the direction of Uden. 
Already trucks, tanks, and supply ve- 
hicles so sorely needed at Nijmegen and 
Arnhem clogged the highway for miles, 
cruelly exposed to enemy attack along 
some other portion of the road. 

General McAuliffe found his impending 
task eased by the fact that radio com- 
munications with the 30 Corps at 
Nijmegen had remained constant. The 
30 Corps commander, General Horrocks, 
promised to send his 32 d Guards Brigade 
to attack south the next day to assist in 
opening the road. General McAuliffe 
also received another assist from the Brit- 
ish: during 22 September the 8 British 
Corps, which was advancing along the 
right flank of the corridor, had forced two 
crossings of the Willems Canal to the east 
of Eindhoven at Helmond and Asten. 
Even as Kampfgruppe Walther continued 
to fight, Colonel Walther had to keep one 
eye cocked to the southeast. A sudden 
spurt by the 8 Corps might sever his line 
of communications. 

Early the next day, D plus 6, 23 
September, Kampfgruppe Walther never- 
theless resumed the attack against Veghel, 



192 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



while General Reinhard's LXXXVIII 
Corps tried to co-operate with a com- 
plementary thrust from the west. Unlike 
Colonel Walther, General Reinhard had 
no real concern about British advances, 
for west of the corridor his troops had 
held the 12 British Corps in the vicinity 
of Best. Yet because Kampfgruppe Ru- 
ber had been mauled severely, General 
Reinhard had to turn elsewhere to find 
troops with which to attack. During the 
night he had moved up Colonel von der 
Heydte's 6th Parachute Regiment, which 
as a part of Kampfgruppe Chill had 
fought along the Meuse-Escaut Canal. 

In order to co-ordinate with the re- 
newed thrust of Kampfgruppe Walther, 
Colonel von der Heydte had to ( attack 
immediately after arrival, even though his 
troops were exhausted from two nights 
of marching. Moreover, one of the 6th 
Parachute Regiment's organic battalions 
had been left behind. In its stead von 
der Heydte had a battalion of the 2 d 
Parachute Regiment, "a rotten apple," an 
outfit poorly led and poorly disciplined. 
To add to the problems, the command 
situation left something to be desired, 
As a component of Kampfgruppe Chill, 
the 6th Parachute Regiment received tac- 
tical orders from that source, but the 
regiment had to depend for supply upon 
the §gth Division. Faced with these con- 
ditions, the colonel understandably had 
little faith in the prospects of his attack. 

He was right. Scheduled to attack at 
0700 (23 September), the 6th Parachute 
Regiment did not get going until an hour 
and a half later. Striking toward Veghel 
along the same route taken the day before 
by Kampfgruppe Ruber, von der Heydte's 
paratroopers ran into Colonel Johnson's 
parachute infantry at Wijbosch and Eerde. 
They could get nowhere. Soon after 



noon von der Heydte told his men to 
defend the line they had reached. 29 

In the drive against Veghel from the 
east, Kampfgruppe Walther found the 
going equally tough. Apparently in rec- 
ognition of the threat posed by continued 
advance of the 8 British Corps, Kampf- 
gruppe Walther by noon had begun to 
fall back. 

When at 1300 General McAuliffe seized 
the initiative to send two battalions of the 
506th Parachute Infantry to break Kampf- 
gruppe Walther's stranglehold on Hell's 
Highway between Veghel and Uden, the 
paratroopers found only a shell of German 
defenders remaining. They advanced 
quickly more than a mile to a juncture 
with the British armor driving southwest 
from Uden. As soon as tanks and bull- 
dozers could nose damaged vehicles 
aside, traffic once again rolled on Hell's 
Highway. 

Even as fighting continued at Veghel, 
the 101st Airborne Division's last glider 
serial was arriving at the glider landing 
zone. Blessed by genuinely favorable 
weather for the first time since D Day, this 
lift on 23 September arrived almost with- 
out incident. Included was the 907th 
Glider Field Artillery Battalion, whose 
105-mm. howitzers had been turned back 
by adverse weather on D plus 2. When 
the division's seaborne tail arrived during 
the night of D plus 5 and on D plus 6, 
General Taylor at last could count his 
entire division present. 

The Germans were convinced that these 
new landings were designed primarily to 
alleviate German pressure at Veghel. 
Indeed, they in part attributed Kampf- 
gruppe Walther's failure to hold onto 
Hell's Highway to an erroneous belief that 



29 MS #"'C-ooi (von der Heydte). 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



193 



fresh Allied paratroopers had landed at 
Uden. 30 

The Germans were concerned even 
more about new Allied landings on this 
date at Nijmegen, where General Gavin at 
last received his 325th Glider Infantry. 31 
Despite the reinforcement of Corps Feldt 
by seven battalions under the // Para- 
chute Corps, the Germans had been 
thrown on the defensive in this sector 
after their short-lived successes at Mook, 
Riethorst, Wyler, and Beek on D plus 3, 
20 September. To provide greater se- 
curity for the Waal bridges at Nijmegen, 
General Gavin had ordered an attack to 
clear the flatlands between the ridge and 
the Waal as far as three miles east of 
Nijmegen. Parts of the 504th and 508th 
Parachute Regiments had begun to attack 
late on D plus 4, 21 September, as soon 
as Beek had been retaken. By nightfall 
of D plus 6, 23 September, the 83d Air- 
borne Division's new line in this sector 
ran from the foot of Devil's Hill (Hill 
75.9) northeast to the Waal near Erlekom. 
With the arrival of the 325th Glider 
Infantry (Lt. Col. Charles Billingslea) on 
23 September the Germans at the south- 
ern end of the high ground also came 
under attack. Relieving the 505th Para- 
chute Infantry, the glidermen began to 
clear a patch of woods on lower slopes of 
the Kiekberg (Hill 7 7. 2). 32 

Perhaps as a corollary to the concern 
that grew from the new Allied landings, 
Field Marshal Model on 23 September 
reorganized his command in hope of a 
simpler and more effective arrangement. 
He in effect drew an imaginary line along 



30 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0200, 24 Sep 44, A 
Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

31 Ibid. 

32 See History of 325th Glider Infantry, 82c! 
Abn Div Combat Interv file. 



the west boundary of the corridor the 
Allies had carved. All forces to the west 
of this line came under General von 
Zangen's Fifteenth Army. Relieving the 
Armed Forces Commander Netherlands 
and Wehrkreis VI of their unorthodox 
tactical responsibilities, Model assigned 
the First Parachute Army the following 
forces: General Bittrich's // SS Panzer 
Corps (plus Division von Tettau), Gen- 
eral Meindl's // Parachute Corps, General 
von Obstfelder's LXXXVI Corps, Corps 
Feldt, and a new corps headquarters that 
was scheduled to arrive within a few days. 
With these forces, General Student was to 
execute the main effort against the Allied 
corridor. 33 

In the wake of this reorganization, a 
renewal of the attack by Colonel von der 
Heydte's 6th Parachute Regiment near 
Veghel on 24 September was made under 
the auspices of the Fifteenth Army rather 
than the First Parachute Army. Yet the 
pattern of the action was much the same 
as the day before. This time the fighting 
occurred only at Eerde, where a battalion 
of the 501st Parachute Infantry under 
Colonel Cassidy fought a courageous, 
hand-to-hand engagement for possession of 
local observation advantage in a range of 
sand dunes near the village. As German 
success appeared imminent, another bat- 
talion under Lt. Col. Julian J. Ewell and 
a squadron of British tanks arrived. 
Thereupon Colonel Cassidy counterat- 
tacked to drive von der Heydte's para- 
troopers from the dunes. 

The fight might have ended in un- 
equivocal American success had not the 
Germans committed alongside von der 

33 Order, A Gp B to First Prcht Army, Fif- 
teenth Army, Armed Forces Comdr Netherlands, 
Wehrkreis VI, 1200, 23 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Operationsbefehle. 



194 THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Hell's Highway. Wrecked British supply trucks along the hotly contested route. 

Hey die's south flank a newly arrived unit, 
a Battalion Jungwirlh. Advancing south- 
east down a secondary road, Battalion 
jungwirlh surprisingly found no Ameri- 
cans barring the way. As nightfall 
neared, the Germans approached the 
hamlet of Kocvering, located astride Hell's 
Highway a little more than a third of the 
distance from St. Oedenrodc to Veghel and 
heretofore unoccupied by the Americans. 

When outposts reported this movement, 
the commander of the 50 2d Parachute 
Infantry at St. Oedenrode sent two com- 
panies racing toward Kocvering. Arriving 
minutes ahead of the Germans, these 
companies denied the village; but they 
could not prevent Battalion Jungwirlh 
from cutting Hell's Highway a few hun- 



dred yards to the northeast, 
more than twenty-four hours after the 
Allies had reopened the highway between 
Veghel and Uden, the Germans had cut 
it again. 

Through the night airborne and British 
artillery pounded the point of German 
penetration in an attempt to prevent re- 
inforcement. The 907th Glider Field 
Artillery Battalion in firing positions only 
400 yards from the Germans laid the guns 
of one battery for direct fire, operated the 
others with skeleton crews, and put the 
rest of the artillerymen in foxholes as 
riflemen. Yet Colonel von der Heydte 
still managed to redeploy a portion of his 
6th Parachute Regiment to the point of 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



195 



Marching during the night from Uden 
in a heavy rain, Colonel Sink's 506th 
Parachute Infantry attacked at 0830 the 
next morning (D plus 8, 25 September) 
to squeeze the Germans from the north- 
east. A regiment of the 50th British 
Infantry Division and a reinforced bat- 
talion of the 502d Parachute Infantry 
pressed at the same time from the direction 
of St. Oedenrode. As the day wore on, 
Battalion Jungwirth and reinforcements 
from the 6th Parachute Regiment held 
firm. By nightfall the Allies had drawn 
a noose about the Germans on three sides, 
but a small segment of Hell's Highway 
still was in German hands. 

During the night Battalion Jungwirth 
withdrew in apparent recognition of the 
tenuous nature of the position. The Ger- 
mans nevertheless had held the penetration 
long enough to mine the highway ex- 
tensively. Not until well into the day of 
D plus g, 26 September, did engineers 
finally clear the road and open Hell's 
Highway again to traffic. 

The elimination of this break near 
Koevering marked the stabilization of the 
101st Airborne Division's front. Al- 
though the Germans struck time after 
time in varying strength at various posi- 
tions along the road, never again were 
they to cut it. Actually, General Rein- 
hard's LXXXVIII Corps to the west of 
the highway concentrated primarily upon 
interfering with Allied movements through 
artillery fire, and General von Obstfelder's 
LXXXVI Corps to the east was too con- 
cerned with advance of the 8 British Corps 
to pay much more attention to Hell's 
Highway. 34 Indeed, by nightfall of 25 
September patrols of the 8 Corps had 



34 See Daily Sitreps, A Gp B, 27 Sep 44, and 
later dates, A Gp B KTB, T agesmeldungen. 



contacted contingents of the 30 Corps at 
St. Antonis, south of Nijmegen, thereby 
presaging quick formation of a solid line 
along the east flank of the corridor. Both 
General Taylor's 101st Airborne Division 
and General Gavin's 82d Airborne Divi- 
sion now might hold basically in place 
while the British tried to make the best of 
what had been happening at Arnhem. 

The Outcome at Arnhem 

The day the Germans first cut Hell's 
Highway at Veghel, D plus 5, 22 Septem- 
ber, a new attack by the British ground 
column to break through to the hard- 
pressed paratroopers north of the Neder 
Rijn began auspiciously. Just after dawn, 
patrols in armored cars utilized a heavy 
mist to sneak past the west flank of the 
German line via Valburg. Taking cir- 
cuitous back roads and trails, the patrols 
in a matter of a few hours reached 
General Sosabowski's Polish troops at 
Driel, across the river from the British 
perimeter at Oosterbeek. 

When the main body of the 43d Infan- 
try Division attacked, the story was 
different. During the night the Germans 
had reinforced their defensive screen with 
a headquarters infantry battalion and a 
company of Panther tanks. 35 After a 
minor advance to a point well southwest 
of Elst, still not halfway to Arnhem, the 
British infantry despaired of breaking 
through. 

The British had one trick remaining. 
Mounting on tanks, a battalion of infantry 
traced the route of the armored cars over 



35 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 0135, 23 Sep 44, A 
Gp B KTB, T agesmeldungen; Bittrich Question- 
naire, copy in OGMH. 



196 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



back roads to the northwest and reached 
Driel before nightfall. The column in- 
cluded DUKW's loaded with ammunition 
and supplies for the Red Devils. During 
the night, the Polish paratroopers were to 
cross the Neder Rijn in these craft. The 
need for reinforcement and resupply north 
of the river grew more urgent by the hour, 
for on 22 September perhaps the worst 
weather of the operation had denied air 
resupply of any kind. 

Unfortunately, the DUKW's could not 
make it. Mud along the south bank of 
the Neder Rijn was too deep. During 
the night of 22 September, only about 
fifty Poles riding makeshift rafts managed 
to cross. 

The break in the weather on D plus 6, 
23 September, permitted a degree of 
assistance for the Red Devils. Typhoons 
of the 2d Tactical Air Force and P-47's 
of the Eighth Air Force struck enemy 
positions all along the corridor, particu- 
larly around the perimeter at Oosterbeek. 
This was the day when the last serials of 
the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions ar- 
rived. Upon order of General Browning, 
the remainder of the 1st Polish Parachute 
Brigade landed on the secure drop zone of 
the 82d Airborne Division near Grave 
instead of at Driel and became a reserve 
for the American division. Thereupon, 
the Coldstream Guards Group reverted to 
the Guards Armoured Division. 

Now that the British had reached Driel, 
radio communication with the Red Devils 
at last was constant. As a consequence, 
General Horrocks and General Browning 
no longer anticipated recapture of the 
Arnhem bridge. At last the hard fact 
was evident that even should the ground 
column take the bridge, the Red Devils 
were too weak to help establish a bridge- 
head at Arnhem. The two commanders 



agreed that the best chance of reinforcing 
or relieving the British airborne troops 
was through Driel. The 43d Infantry 
Division therefore concentrated upon 
strengthening the forces at Driel and upon 
clearing Elst, in order to open more direct 
secondary roads to Driel. 

By nightfall of D plus 6, 23 September, 
a brigade had fought into the outskirts of 
Elst, while another brigade had built up 
about Driel. To Driel went a small num- 
ber of assault boats for putting the rest 
of the Polish paratroopers across the river 
during the night; for General Horrocks 
still hoped to turn the British perimeter 
into a secure bridgehead. But the Ger- 
mans continued to control the north bank 
of the river, so that during the night only 
a modicum of ammunition and supplies 
and some 150 Polish paratroopers got 
across. 

This continued inability to reinforce 
the British at Oosterbeek brought the 
first formal recognition that Operation 
Market-Garden might have passed the 
point of saving. Even though the Allies 
controlled a grass landing field near Grave 
where planes could land the 5 2d Lowland 
Division (Airportable) , the Second Army 
commander, General Dempsey, radioed 
during the evening of 23 September that 
this division was not to be flown in with- 
out his approval. He obviously was re- 
luctant to throw additional airborne 
troops into the fray unless he could find 
more positive indication of eventual suc- 
cess. Apparently with the concurrence 
of General Brereton and Field Marshal 
Montgomery, he gave authority to with- 
draw the 1 st British Airborne Division 
from north of the Neder Rijn, "if the 
position so warranted." 36 

36 Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in 
Holland. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



197 



For a time, however, General Horrocks 
refused to give up without at least one 
more attempt to establish a bridgehead 
beyond the Neder Rijn. He directed that 
during the night of D plus 7, 24 Septem- 
ber, the rest of the Polish paratroopers be 
ferried across. Nearby, two companies of 
the 43d Division's Dorsetshire Regiment 
were to cross, a first step in projected 
eventual commitment of the entire 43d 
Division beyond the river. 

Once again success hinged on whether 
sufficient troops could cross the river 
during the night. Using the limited num- 
ber of assault boats available, the two 
companies of the Dorsetshire Regiment 
paddled over, but daylight came before 
the Poles could cross. Because of German 
fire, even the Dorsets failed to assemble in 
cohesive units on the north bank. Few 
of them reached the British perimeter. 
Only about seventy-five of 400 Dorsets to 
cross over made their way back to the 
south bank. 

If judged against German expectations, 
General Horrocks' hope that even at this 
late stage he still might establish a secure 
bridgehead was not unreasonable. The 
German commander, Field Marshal 
Model, was convinced that the airborne 
landings the day before presaged a re- 
newed Allied effort. In regard to the 
over-all situation, Model was pessimistic. 
"The situation of Army Group B's north- 
ern wing," he reported on 24 September, 
"has continued to deteriorate .... In 
the bitter fighting of the past week we 
were able merely to delay the enemy in 
achieving his strategic objective .... 
The renewed large airborne operation of 
23 September ... is bound to result in 
highly critical developments . . . ." He 
needed, the Army Group B commander 
reported, "minimum reinforcements" of 



one infantry and one panzer division, a 
panzer brigade, two assault gun brigades, 
increased supplies of artillery ammunition, 
and increased infantry replacements. 37 

For a few hours longer, General Hor- 
rocks' optimism continued to match 
Model's apparent pessimism. The British 
corps commander still wanted one more 
try at establishing a bridgehead before 
conceding defeat. Reasoning that he 
might force a bridgehead elsewhere while 
the Germans were occupied with the Red 
Devils at Oosterbeek, he directed the 43d 
Infantry Division to prepare to cross a 
few miles to the west at Renkum, where 
a British armored brigade, driving west 
and northwest from Valburg, had built 
up along the south bank of the river. 
Yet hardly had General Horrocks issued 
this order when he admitted his plan 
was illusory. A short while later he re- 
scinded the order. 

Operation Market-Garden was almost 
over. At 0930 on D plus 8, 25 Septem- 
ber, General Horrocks and General 
Browning agreed to withdraw the sur- 
vivors of the British airborne division from 
the north bank. 

Hungry, thirsty, heavy-eyed, utterly 
fatigued, and reduced to a shell of a 
division after nine days of fighting, the 
Red Devils wrapped their muddy boots in 
rags to muffle the sound of their foot- 
steps and began at 2145 on 25 September 
to run a gantlet of German patrols to the 
water's edge. The night was mercifully 
dark. A heavy rain fell. Thundering 
almost constantly, guns of the 30 Corps 
lowered a protective curtain about the 
periphery of the British position. In 
groups of fourteen to match capacity of 

" TWX, Model to Rundstedt, 1300, 24 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Anlagen, Lagebeurteilungen/ 
Wochenmeldungen, 15.V.-1 1.X.44. 



198 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the boats, the men inched toward the 
river. They had to leave their wounded 
behind. 

Patient despite nervousness, fatigue, 
and the cold rain, the men queued for an 
empty boat. As dawn approached and 
many remained to be ferried, all who 
could do so braved the current to swim 
across. Not all of them made it. As 
daylight called a halt to the withdrawal, 
some 300 men remained on the north 
bank. A few of these hid out to make 
their way south on subsequent nights, 
but most probably were captured. 

Guides led the weary soldiers to a 
reception point south of Driel where 
friendly hands plied them with rum, hot 
food, and tea. The survivors included 
1,741 officers and men of the 1st Airborne 
Division, 422 British glider pilots, 160 men 
of the 1 st Polish Parachute Brigade, and 
75 of the Dorsetshire Regiment, a total of 
2,398. These were all that remained of 
approximately 9,000 who had fought on 
the north bank. Judging from German 
reports, these men who wore the jaunty 
red berets had inflicted upon their enemy 
approximately 3,300 casualties, including 
1,100 dead. 38 Speaking for his troops, 
General Urquhart said: "We have no 
regrets." 39 

The Achievements and the Cost 

Operation Market-Garden accom- 
plished much of what it had been designed 
to accomplish. Nevertheless, by the 
merciless logic of war, Market-Garden 
was a failure. The Allies had trained 



38 German figures from Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, 
0220, 27 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 
The Germans claimed approximately 8,000 Brit- 
ish casualties, including 6,450 prisoners (1,700 of 
them wounded) and 1,500 dead. 

39 i st Abn Div, Rpt on Opn Market, Pt. 1. 



their sights on far-reaching objectives. 
These they had not attained. 

On the credit side, Market-Garden 
had gained bridgeheads over five major 
water obstacles, including the formidable 
Maas and Waal Rivers. The bridgehead 
beyond the Maas was to prove a decided 
advantage in February 1 945 when the 2 1 
Army Group launched a drive to clear 
the west bank of the Rhine opposite the 
Ruhr. The bridgehead beyond the Waal 
was to pose a constant threat of an Allied 
thrust northward, through the Germans 
subsequently lessened the threat by a 
program of widespread inundation. Op- 
eration Market-Garden also had forged 
a salient sixty-five miles deep into enemy 
territory, had liberated many square 
miles of the Netherlands, and had gained 
some valuable airfields. It also had 
drawn some German formations from 
other sectors of the Western Front and 
had imposed upon these forces a high rate 
of attrition. 

On the debit side, some might maintain 
that the cardinal point was the failure to 
precipitate a German collapse. Although 
the enemy's collapse was hardly a formal 
objective of the operation, few would deny 
that many Allied commanders had nur- 
tured the hope. In regard to more 
immediate and clearly defined objectives, 
the operation had failed to secure a 
bridgehead beyond the Neder Rijn, had 
not effectively turned the north flank of 
the West Wall, had not cut off the enemy's 
Fifteenth Army, and had not positioned 
the 2 1 Army Group for a drive around the 
north flank of the Ruhr. The hope of 
attaining these objectives had prompted 
the ambition and daring that went into 
Operation Market-Garden. Not to 
have realized them could mean only that 
the operation had failed. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



199 



The cost was high. In what may be 
called the "airborne phase," lasting from 
D-Day until withdrawal from north of 
the Neder Rijn on 25 September, the 
British airborne troops, including glider 
pilots and headquarters of the British 
Airborne Corps, lost 7,212 men killed, 
wounded, and missing. The 82d Air- 
borne Division lost 1,432; the 101st 
Airborne Division, 2,110. Casualties 
among the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade 
totaled 378; among American glider pilots, 
122. British and American air transport 
units lost 596 pilots. Including airborne 
troops, glider pilots, and transport air- 
craft pilots, the airborne phase cost 
11,850 casualties. 40 

To this total belong those casualties 
incurred by the 30 Corps, an estimated 
1,480 through 25 September. In addi- 
tion, the 30 Corps lost some 70 tanks, and 
together the Americans and British lost 
144 transport aircraft. 41 



40 Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in Hol- 
land. A complete tabulations of losses through 
25 September follows: 





Killed 


Wounded 


Missing 


Total 


Total 


968 


2 ,640 


8 , 242 


1 1 ,850 


Hq Br Abn Corps 










and Sig Pers 


4 




8 


12 


1st Br Abn Div 


286 


135 


6,041 


6,462 


82d Abn Div 


215 


790 


427 


I ,430 


101st Abn Div 


3 IS 


I ,248 


547 


2,Il8 


1st Pol Prcht Brig. 


47 


158 


173 


378 


Br Glider Pilots__. 


59 


35 


644 


732 


U.S. Glider Pilots. 


12 


36 


74 


122 


38 Group RAF — 


6 


23 


184 


213 


46 Group RAF — 


8 


1 1 


62 


8l 


IX U.S. Troop 










Carrier Com- 










mand. 


16 


204 


82 


302 



41 Casualty figures on British ground forces 
furnished by Cabinet Office Historical Section; 
others from Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in 
Holland. The 8 and 12 Corps for the same 
period (17-25 Sep) incurred 3,874 casualties and 
lost approximately 18 tanks. 



Though Market-Garden failed in its 
more far-reaching ramifications, to con- 
demn the entire plan as a mistake is to 
show no appreciation for imagination and 
daring in military planning and is to 
ignore the climate of Allied intelligence 
reports that existed at the time. While 
reasons advanced for the failure range 
from adverse weather (Field Marshal 
Montgomery) and delay of the British 
ground column south of Eindhoven (Gen- 
eral Brereton) to faulty intelligence (the 
Germans), 42 few criticisms have been 
leveled at the plan itself. In light of 
Allied limitations in transport, supplies, 
and troops for supporting the thrust, in 
light of General Eisenhower's commitment 
to a broad-front policy, and in light of the 
true condition of the German army in the 
West, perhaps the only real fault of the 
plan was overambition. 

Field Marshal Montgomery has written: 
"We had undertaken a difficult operation, 
attended by considerable risks. It was 
justified because, had good weather ob- 
tained, there was no doubt that we should 
have attained full success." 43 Whether 
one can ascribe everything to weather in 
this manner is problematical, for other 
delays and difficulties not attributable to 
adverse weather developed. Certainly the 
vagaries of weather played a major role. 
Weather delayed arrival of the ist Brit- 
ish Airborne Division's second lift on D 
plus i for five hours, thwarted all but a 
smattering of resupply north of the Neder 
Rijn, and delayed arrival of the ist 
Polish Parachute Brigade for two days. 
Bad weather also delayed arrival of the 82 d 



42 FAAA Memo, sub: German analysis of Arn- 
hem, 18 Dec 44, in SHAEF FAAA files; Brereton, 
The Brereton Diaries, pp. 360-61; Montgomery, 
Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 242-43. 

43 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 242. 



200 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Airborne Division's glider infantry regi- 
ment and a battalion of the ioist Air- 
borne Division's artillery for four days and 
helped deny any really substantial con- 
tribution after D-Day from tactical air- 
craft. 

The major adversities attributable to 
unfavorable weather might have been 
avoided had sufficient aircraft been avail- 
able to transport the entire airborne force 
on D-Day. Yet to have hoped for that 
many aircraft at this stage of the war 
would have been to presume the millen- 
ium. As it was, more transport aircraft 
were employed in Operation Market 
than in any other operation up to that 
time. 

In the matter of intelligence, the Allies 
sinned markedly. In particular, they ex- 
pected greatest opposition at those points 
closest to the German front line, that is, 
near Eindhoven, and failed to detect (or 
to make adjustments for) the presence of 
the 77 SS Panzer Corps near Arnhem, 
the $gth Division in transit near Tilburg, 
two SS battalions in the line opposite the 
30 Corps, and the proximity of Student's 
and Model's headquarters to the drop 
zones. The celerity of German reaction 
certainly owed much to the presence of 
Model and Student on the scene, as well 
as to the blunder of some American 
officer who went into battle with a copy 
of the operational order. Faulty intelli- 
gence indicating German armor in the 
Reichswald bore heavily upon General 
Gavin's disposition of his battalions. 
Allied intelligence also erred in estimates 
of the terrain and enemy flak near Arn- 
hem, thereby prompting location of 
British drop and landing zones far from 
the primary objective of the Arnhem 
bridge. 

Yet all these handicaps possibly could 



have been overcome had the British 
ground column been able to advance ' as 
rapidly as General Horrocks had hoped. 
Perhaps the real fault was dependence 
upon but one road. In any event, the 
ground troops were delayed for varying 
amounts of time south of Eindhoven, at 
the demolished bridge over the Wilhel- 
mina Canal at Zon, and at the Waal 
bridge in Nijmegen. Had these delays 
been avoided, the Germans conceivably 
could not have seriously deterred the 
advance between the Waal and the Neder 
Rijn, for this would have put the ground 
column north of the Waal by D plus 2 at 
the latest. Not until the night of D plus 
3 were the Germans able to use the Arn- 
hem bridge to get tanks and other rein- 
forcements south of the Neder Rijn in 
order to form the defensive screen that in 
the end constituted the greatest delay 
of all. 

Perhaps the most portentous conclu- 
sion to be drawn from the failure of 
Operation Market-Garden was the fact 
that for some time to come there could be 
no major thrust into the heart of Ger- 
many. Combined with the kind of 
resistance the Americans had been ex- 
periencing at Metz and Aachen, Market- 
Garden proved that the Germans in the 
West might be down but they were not 
out. 

To many commanders, the outcome 
meant that all efforts now must be turned 
toward opening Antwerp to shipping and 
toward building a reserve of supplies 
sufficient for supporting a major offensive. 
As for settling the great debate of broad 
front versus narrow front, the outcome of 
this operation proved nothing. To some 
partisans, it merely demonstrated that 
Field Marshal Montgomery had been 
wrong in insisting on his drive in the 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



201 



north. To others, it showed that General 
Eisenhower had erred in deciding to ad- 
vance along a broad front, that when 
committing a strategic reserve a com- 
mander should be prepared to support it 
adequately. 

Release of the U. S. Divisions 

Before the two U.S. divisions jumped in 
Operation Market, General Eisenhower 
had approved their participation with the 
stipulation that they be released as soon 
as ground forces could pass the positions 
they had seized and occupied. 44 This 
had led to an expectation that at least 
one of the divisions might be released as 
early as forty-eight hours after the jump. 
Nevertheless, when the British Red Devils 
withdrew from north of the Neder Rijn 
to signal the end of the airborne phase, 
both American divisions still were in the 
line. 

The Americans would be sorely needed; 
the Germans would see to that. The 
airborne phase might have ended, but the 
fighting had not. No lesser person than 
Hitler himself during the night of 24 
September had commanded that the Al- 
lied corridor be wiped out with simul- 
taneous attacks from Veghel northward. 
This was imperative, Hitler had warned, 
because the Allies had sufficient units to 
stage additional airborne landings in con- 
junction with seaborne landings in the 
western or northern parts of the Nether- 
lands, "and perhaps even on German 
soil . . . ." Hitler had ordered that 
Student's First Parachute Army be given 
a fresh panzer brigade, an antitank bat- 
talion, a battalion of Tiger tanks, and 



44 FWD 14764, Eisenhower to comdrs, 13 Sep 
44, in SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



both the gth and 11 6th Panzer Divisions, 
these last two as soon as they could be 
refitted after their fight with the First U.S. 
Army at Aachen. 45 

Even though the order came from 
Hitler, it was to encounter tough sled- 
ding from the start. Pointing to the 
"total exhaustion" of the forces immedi- 
ately at his disposal, Field Marshal Model 
promptly notified his superior, Rundstedt, 
that "a simultaneous accomplishment of 
the missions ordered is unfortunately im- 
possible . . . ." Noting that reinforce- 
ment by the gth and 116th Panzer Divi- 
sions was but an empty gesture in light of 
the condition of these divisions, Model 
reiterated an earlier plea for genuine 
assistance. In particular, he pleaded for 
the 363d Volks Grenadier Division, a 
fresh unit whose impending availability 
Model had watched covetously for some 
time. 46 

Although subsequently promised the 
363d Volks Grenadier Division, Model 
found his plans to carry out the Hitler 
order hamstrung by delays in troop move- 
ments. Not until 29 September could he 
see any chance of launching even a pre- 
liminary attack, which involved in effect 
no more than local efforts to gain desired 
lines of departure. In the long run, he 
did intend to carry out an ambitious plan. 
With the gth and 116th Panzer Divisions 
attached, General Bittrich's 77 SS Panzer 
Corps was to make the main effort against 
Allied forces between the Waal and the 
Neder Rijn. A new corps headquarters, 
the XII SS Corps ( Obergruppenfuehrer 
und General der Waffen-SS Curt von 
Gottberg) was slated to command the 

45 Copy of Hitler order, filed at 0500, 25 Sep 
44, in A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 

48 TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 0100, 25 Sep 
44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 



202 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Nijmeghn Highway Bridge 



363d Volks Grenadier Division in a sup- 
porting attack along General Bittrich's 
west flank. At the same time General 
MeindTs Parachute Corps was to strike 
from the Reichswald against the high 
ground in the vicinity of Grocsbcek, 
while a relatively fresh infantry division of 
the Fifteenth Army launched a supporting 
attack from the west against Grave. iT 

It was, in fact, not until 1 October that 
the First Parachute Army was able to 
mount any kind of attack other than a few 



17 TWX, A Gp B to Fifteenth Army, 1630, 26 
Sep 44, and to First Frcht Army, 0030. 27 Sep 
44, and 1330, a8 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Operationsb ejehle. 



local stabs. Even then General Student 
had to attack without either the gth and 
1 1 6th Panzer Divisions, which would re- 
quire several days more to assemble, or 
the fresh 363d Volks Grenadier Division. 
The latter would not become available 
until the middle of October. 48 

This is not to say that German pressure 
was not keenly felt by the British and 
Americans who had to fight it. Indeed, 
the Germans launched powerful but iso- 
lated attacks well into October. By this 
time the 8 and 12 Corps had built up on 
cither flank of the Allied corridor in such 



48 Daily Sitreps, A Gp B, 0(45, a Oct 44, and 
0030, 3 Oct 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



203 



strength that the ioist Airborne Division 
could be spared from the defense of 
Veghel to move north of the Waal River 
and reinforce the 30 Corps. Entering 
the line on 5 October in this sector, which 
the men called "the island," General Tay- 
lor's division was subjected to intense 
fighting and ever-mounting casualties; 
but in the process the 363d Volks 
Grenadier Division, which Model had 
awaited so eagerly, merely smashed itself 
to pieces and gained no ground to show 
for it. Coincidentally, the 82d Airborne 
Division was successfully repulsing all at- 
tempts by the 77 Parachute Corps to take 
the high ground around Groesbeek. 49 

The only real success General Stu- 
dent could report occurred at the 
Nijmegen bridges over the Waal. On 
two separate days the Germans struck at 
the bridges from the air, once with ap- 
proximately forty planes, and each time 
scored one hit on the highway bridge. 
Both hits damaged the bridge but failed to 
halt traffic. Before daylight on 29 
September, German swimmers slipped 
through the darkness to place submarine 
charges against buttresses of both the rail 
and road bridges. For a day neither 
bridge could be used, though by 1 Octo- 
ber engineers had repaired the road 
bridge to permit one-way traffic and 
restored it subsequently to full capacity. 

On 9 October General Browning's 
British Airborne Corps headquarters took 
leave of its adopted American divisions to 
return to England. Already the 1st 

49 For the defensive phase of Market 
Garden, see Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns 
in Holland; FAAA, Operations in Holland; 
Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 240- 
41; Rapport and Northwood, Rendezvous With 
Destiny, pp. 374 ff; and unit journals and after 
action reports of the 82d and ioist Airborne 
Divisions. 



British Airborne Division and the 1st 
Polish Parachute Brigade, both so se- 
verely battered that their value in the 
defensive battles was negligible, had left 
the combat zone. Also by this time 
headquarters of both the 12 and 30 Corps 
were in the vicinity of Nijmegen so that 
any need there for General Browning's 
command post had passed. 

By this date, 9 October, the British 
had widened the waist of the corridor to 
about twenty-four miles. Thereupon, the 
12 Corps assumed responsibility for the 
"island" between the Waal and the Neder 
Rijn in order to free the 30 Corps for a 
projected drive against the Ruhr. Field 
Marshal Montgomery intended to strike 
southeast from Nijmegen in order to clear 
the west bank of the Rhine and the 
western face of the Ruhr and converge 
with a renewal of First Army's push 
against Cologne. 

Even as October drew to an end and 
enemy pressure against the Market- 
Garden salient diminished, no release 
came for the two U.S. divisions. Like 
the 10 1st Airborne Division, part of Gen- 
eral Gavin's 82d moved northward onto 
the "island." Here the men huddled in 
shallow foxholes dug no more than three 
feet deep lest\they fill with water seepage. 
In an attempt ^tp deceive the Germans into 
believing the Allies planned another thrust 
northward, patrol after patrol probed the 
enemy lines. One patrol, composed of 
six men of the ioist Airborne Division 
under Lt. Hugo Sims, Jr., crossed the 
Neder Rijn and roamed several miles 
behind the German positions for longer 
than twenty-four hours. The patrol re- 
turned with thirty-two prisoners. 50 

50 A colorful account of this ■ action, entitled 
"The Incredible Patrol," by Cpl. Russ Engel 
appeared in Life Magazine, January 15, 1945. 



204 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



This practice of keeping the two Ameri- 
can divisions in the line long after they 
were to have been released became more 
and more a source of "grave concern" to 
the First Allied Airborne Army command- 
er, General Brereton. "Keeping airborne 
soldiers in the front lines as infantry," 
General Brereton noted, "is a violation of 
the cardinal rules of airborne employ- 
ment." 51 In protesting their continued 
employment to General Eisenhower, Brere- 
ton wrote that unless the divisions were 
withdrawn immediately, he could not 
meet a ready date for a proposed airborne 
operation to assist the 12th Army Group. 
"Further combat," he warned, "will de- 
plete them of trained men beyond re- 
placement capacity." 52 

Reminding Field Marshal Montgomery 
of the conditions under which use of the 
U.S. divisions had been granted, General 
Eisenhower pointed out that the mainte- 
nance of the divisions had been based on 
that plan and that he contemplated using 
the two divisions about the middle of 
November. "To enable this to be done," 
he said "at least one of these divisions 
should be released without delay, and the 
second one within a reasonably short time 
thereafter." 53 

This was on 2 October. Yet the days 
and the weeks and more artillery fire and 
more patrolling and more British rations 
and British cigarettes passed, and still the 
Americans stayed in the line. Even the 
British rum ration failed to act as a real 
palliative. 



51 Brereton, The Brereton Diaries, pp. 361, 
367-68. 

52 V-25550, Brereton to Eisenhower, 10 Oct 44, 
SHAEF SGS 381, II. 

53 FWD 16687 Eisenhower to Montgomery, 2 
Oct 44, SHAEF SGS 381, II. 



To condemn the British for failing to 
give up the divisions is to show no apprec- 
iation of the manpower problems that 
plagued the 21 Army Group at the time. 
The British recognized the "accepted 
principle" that, because of specialist 
training and equipment and the difficulty 
of replacing casualties, airborne troops 
should be relieved as soon as possible 
from normal ground operations. The 
British Airborne Corps noted, however, 
"It is also a fact that they cannot be 
released until the major tactical or stra- 
tegical situation allows them to be spared 
or replaced by other troops." 54 The 
simple fact was that Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery had a lot of jobs to do in light 
of the number of men he had to do them 
with. 

Even before creation of the Market- 
Garden salient, the 21 Army Group front 
had extended from near Ostend on the 
Channel coast to the boundary with the 
1 2th Army Group near Hasselt, a distance 
of more than 150 miles. In addition, 
German garrisons in the Channel ports of 
Boulogne, Calais, and Dunkerque had to 
be either annihilated or contained. Upon 
creation of the Market-Garden salient, 
about 130 miles of front had been added 
to British responsibility, almost double the 
original length. 

The need to hold the salient was obvi- 
ous. It also was a big assignment that 
occupied most of the Second British Army. 

Neither could the necessity to secure 
the seaward approaches to Antwerp be 
denied. To that task Field Marshal 
Montgomery assigned the First Canadian 
Army, but the Canadians had to assume 
two other major tasks as well : ( 1 ) cap- 



54 Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in 
Holland. 



DECISION ON THE GROUND 



205 



ture completely two of the Channel ports 
and contain a third, and (2) attack 
northward from the Meuse-Escaut Canal 
both to complement the drive to open 
Antwerp and to relieve the Second Army 
of long frontage on the west flank of the 
Market-Garden salient. 05 

Still remaining was a task that General 
Eisenhower had assigned jointly to the 21 
Army Group and the First U.S. Army and 
had called "the main effort of the present 
phase of operations." 56 This was the 
conquest of the Ruhr. The First Army 
already was preparing to put another 
corps through the West Wall north of 
Aachen, seize Aachen, and renew the 
drive toward the Ruhr. The British 
shared responsibility for the drive on the 
Ruhr. To converge with the First Army 
along the west bank of the Rhine by 
driving southeast from Nijmegen became 
the "major task" of the Second British 
Army. The job would require at least 
two corps. Yet the emphasis on this 
task removed none of the Second Army's 
responsibility for holding the Market- 
Garden corridor. There could be no 
doubt about it: Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery needed men. 

Despite the letter of 2 October urging 
quick release of the American airborne 
divisions, General Eisenhower was not 
unsympathetic to the British manpower 
problem. He knew that British Empire 
troops available in the United Kingdom 
had long since been absorbed and that 
only in reinforcement from the Mediter- 
ranean Theater, a long-range project, did 
the British have a hope of strengthening 



55 21 A Gp Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, M-527, 27 
Sep 44, and Ltr, de Guingand to Smith, 26 Sep 
44, SHAEF SGS 381, II. 

50 FWD 16181, Eisenhower to CCS, 29 Sep 44, 
SHAEF SGS 381, II. 



themselves. 57 Even after Montgomery de- 
cided in early October that his commit- 
ments were too great and enemy strength 
too imposing to permit an immediate drive 
on the Ruhr, General Eisenhower did not 
press the issue of the airborne divisions. 
Though relieved temporarily of the Ruhr 
offensive, the British had to attack west- 
ward to help the Canadians open 
Antwerp. General Eisenhower had not 
underestimated the desirability of relieving 
the airborne troops; rather, he saw from 
his vantage point as Supreme Commander 
the more critical need of the 21 Army 
Group. At a conference with his top 
commanders on 18 October in Brussels, 
he gave tacit approval to the continued 
employment of the two U.S. divisions. 
They were to be released, he said, when 
the Second Army completed its part in 
clearing the approaches to Antwerp. 58 

As the fighting went on, figures in the 
day-by-day journal entries of the 82d and 
101st Airborne Divisions continued to 
rise: D plus 30, D plus 40, D plus 50. 
Then, at last, on 1 1 November, D plus 55, 
the first units of the 8 2d Airborne Divi- 
sion began to move out of the line. Two 
days later, on D plus 57, the last of 
General Gavin's troops pulled back. 

Still the ordeal did not end for the 
101st Airborne Division. Not until 25 
November, 69 days after the first para- 
chutes had blossomed near Zon, did the 
first troops of General Taylor's division 
begin to withdraw. Two days later, on 
27 November, D plus 71, the last Ameri- 
can paratroopers pulled off the dreaded 
"island" north of the Waal. 



57 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 328. 

58 Report on Supreme Comdr's Conf, 18 Oct 
44, dtd 22 Oct 44, SHAEF SGS 381, II. 



206 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



The defensive phase had been rough. 
Casualty figures alone would show that. 
In the airborne phase, the ioist Airborne 
Division had lost 2,110 men killed, 
wounded, and missing. In the defensive 
phase, the division lost 1,682. The 82d 
had incurred 1,432 casualties in the first 
phase, 1,912 in the second. The cost of 
each of the two phases was approximately 
the same. 59 

In withdrawing after relief, the Ameri- 
can divisions moved back by truck along 
the route of their landings. The Dutch 



people turned out en masse. In Nijmegen, 
Grave, Veghel, St. Oedenrode, Zon, and 
Eindhoven, the Dutch set up a roar. 
"September 17!" the people shouted. 
"September 17!" 

59 Hq Br Abn Corps, Allied Abn Opns in 
Holland. Detailed figures follow: 





Killed 


W ounded 


Missing 


Total 


Total., 


685 


2.703 


.206 


3 .594 


8 2 d Abn Diva 


310 


1 .396 


206 


1 ,912 


ioist Abn Div 


375 


1 ,307 




1,682 



a Figures for the 82d Airborne Division are not available for the 
last six days, past 5 November 1944. 



CHAPTER IX 



The Approaches to Antwerp 



Legend has it that during the era of 
Roman transcendence in Europe, a re- 
gional lord by the name of Druon Antigon 
intercepted all ships plying the sixty miles 
of the Schelde estuary from the North Sea 
to the inland port of Antwerp. If the 
sailors refused or could not meet his de- 
mands for tribute, he cut off their right 
hands. 

Whether true or not, the legend illus- 
trates a fact that for centuries has 
influenced the use and growth of one of 
Europe's greatest ports. Whoever con- 
trols the banks of the Schelde estuary 
controls Antwerp. Plagued by Dutch 
jealousies that found expression in forts 
built along the Schelde, Antwerp did not 
begin until 1863 the modern growth that 
by the eve of World War II had trans- 
formed it into a metropolis of some 
273,000 inhabitants. 

Even before the landings in Normandy, 
the Allies had eyed Antwerp covetously. 
While noting that seizure of Le Havre 
would solve some of the problems of sup- 
plying Allied armies on the Continent, the 
pre-D-Day planners had predicted that 
"until after the development of Antwerp, 
the availability of port capacity will 
still limit the forces which can be main- 
tained." 1 By the time the Allies had 
broken their confinement in Normandy to 
run footloose across northern France, the 



1 SHAEF Planning Staff draft Post Neptune 
Courses of Action After Capture of the Lodgment 
Area, II, 30 May 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



desire for Antwerp had grown so urgent 
that it had strongly influenced General 
Eisenhower in his decision to put the 
weight of the tottering logistical structure 
temporarily behind the thrust in the 
north. 2 

The decision paid dividends with cap- 
ture of the city, its wharves and docks 
intact, by British armor on 4 September. 
(See Map 2.) Yet then it became ap- 
parent that the Germans intended to hold 
both banks of the Schelde along the 
sixty-mile course to the sea, to usurp the 
role of Druon Antigon. Antwerp was a 
jewel that could not be worn for want of 
a setting. 

Had Field Marshal Mongomery im- 
mediately turned the Second British Army 
to clearing the banks of the estuary, the 
seaward approaches to the port well might 
have been opened speedily. But like the 
other Allies in those days of glittering 
triumphs, the British had their eyes fo- 
cused to the east. Looking anxiously 
toward the possibility of having to fight a 
way across the Maas and the Rhine, the 
21 Army Group commander wanted to 
force these barriers before the Germans 
could rally to defend them. "I con- 
sidered it worth while," Montgomery 
wrote after the war, "to employ all our 
resources [to get across the Rhine], at 
the expense of any other undertaking." 3 

2 Report by the Supreme Commander to the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff (Washington, 1946), 
p. 62. 

3 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 199. 



208 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Having captured Antwerp itself, Gen- 
eral Dempsey's Second Army had made 
only a token attempt at opening the 
seaward approaches, an effort the Ger- 
mans quickly discouraged with a series of 
small-scale counterattacks. Thereupon, 
one of the British corps resumed the chase 
northeastward toward Germany while 
another deployed about Antwerp in order 
to protect the left flank of the advancing 
corps. The Second Army's third corps 
had been left far behind, grounded in 
order to provide transport to move and 
supply the other two. 4 

Leaving Antwerp behind, the Second 
Army thus had embarked on a second 
part of its assigned mission, to "breach the 
sector of the Siegfried Line covering the 
Ruhr and then seize the Ruhr." 5 The 
task of clearing the banks of the Schelde 
eventually would fall to Lt. Gen. Henry 
D. G. Crerar's First Canadian Army, 
which was advancing along the Second 
Army's left flank under orders to clear the 
Channel ports. 

Fanning out to the northeast, the 
Second Army had begun to encounter 
stiffening resistance along the line of the 
Albert Canal, not far from the Dutch- 
Belgian border. Nevertheless, by night- 
fall on 8 September, the British had two 
bridgeheads across the Albert and were 
driving toward the next barrier, the 
Meuse-Escaut Canal. It was on 1 1 
September that the Guards Armoured 
Division seized the bridge over the Meuse- 
Escaut at De Groote Barrier, south of 
Eindhoven. Two days later other con- 
tingents of the Second Army crossed the 
canal fifteen miles to the west near 
Herenthals. Here, with supply lines 

4 Ibid., p. 214. 

5 FWD 13765, Eisenhower to Comdrs, 4 Sep 44, 
SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



twanging, preparations necessary before 
the Second Army could participate in 
Operation Market-Garden made a pause 
imperative. 6 

In the meantime, the First Canadian 
Army had been investing the Channel 
ports, ridding the Pas de Calais of its 
launching sites for the deadly V-i and 
V-2 bombs, and sweeping clear the left 
flank of the Second Army in the direction 
of Bruges and Ghent. On 1 September, 
the Canadians had seized Dieppe. On 9 
September, they took Ostend and, on 12 
September, Bruges, only to find that 
northeast of the two cities the Germans 
were preparing to defend the south bank 
of the Schelde estuary. The First Ca- 
nadian Army's 1st British Corps 7 overcame 
all resistance at Le Havre on 12 Septem- 
ber, but the port was so badly damaged 
that it was to handle no Allied tonnage 
until 9 October. Although Boulogne 
was the next port scheduled to be taken, 
the attack had to await special assault 
equipment used at Le Havre. Boulogne 
did not fall until 22 September. Of the 
two remaining ports, Dunkerque was 
masked, while Calais, attacked after 
seizure of Boulogne, fell on 1 October. 8 

Although capture of the Channel ports 
was expected to improve the Allied logis- 

6 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, pages 
216-17, provides the tactical story for this period 
between 4 and 13 September. 

7 Most international of all Allied armies in the 
European theater, the First Canadian Army had 
two corps, one primarily Canadian, the other, 
during this phase of the war, primarily British. 
The army also included a Polish armored division, 
a Czechoslovakian armored brigade group, and 
at one time or another Dutch, Belgian, French, 
Norwegian, and American troops. 

8 Stacey, The Canadian Army, pp. 210-17; 
Charles P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, vol. 
Ill of the official "History of the Canadian Army 
in the Second World War" (Ottawa: E. 
Cloutier, Queen's Printer, i960), 323-425. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



209 



tical picture somewhat, none other than 
Le Havre could approach the tonnage 
potentiality of Antwerp. Le Havre itself 
was too far behind the front by the time 
of capture to affect the supply situation 
appreciably. Even with possession of the 
Channel ports, the importance of Antwerp 
to Allied plans could not be minimized. 

While fighting to open the Channel 
ports, the Canadians had neither the 
strength nor supplies to do much about 
Antwerp. On 13 September one Ca- 
nadian division had sought a bridgehead 
over two parallel canals northeast of 
Bruges (the Leopold Canal and the Canal 
de la Derivation de la Lys) that marked 
the line which the Germans intended to 
hold on the Schelde's south bank, but 
German reaction was so violent and Ca- 
nadian losses so heavy that the bridgehead 
had to be withdrawn the next day. 

Beginning on 16 September the First 
Canadian Army assumed responsibility for 
Antwerp and its environs. Nevertheless, 
the supply demands of Operation 
Market-Garden and the battles for 
Boulogne and Calais continued to deny a 
large-scale offensive to open Antwerp. A 
lengthy stretch of the Schelde's south 
bank west and northwest of the city was 
clear as far west as a large inlet known 
as the Braakman, but it was from the 
Braakman to the sea that the Germans 
intended to hold the south bank. North 
of Antwerp the enemy remained perilously 
close to the city. During the night of 20 
September contingents of the First Ca- 
nadian Army began operations against the 
Albert and Antwerp-Turnhout Canals 
near the city to alleviate this situation 
somewhat. In the bridgehead finally 
established, the Canadians held tempo- 
rarily to prepare for a contemplated 
advance northwest to seal off the isthmus 



of South Beveland and thereby cut off the 
Germans holding this isthmus and the 
adjoining island of Walcheren. 9 

The Controversy About Antwerp 

Because other responsibilities and the 
strained logistical situation would for some 
time deny unrestricted use of the First 
Canadian Army to open Antwerp, Allied 
plans for clearing the Schelde became 
inextricably tied up through September 
and well into October with Field Marshal 
Montgomery's determination to get a 
bridgehead beyond the Rhine. Though 
recognizing that use of Antwerp was 
"essential to sustain a powerful thrust 
deep into Germany," 10 General Eisen- 
hower had agreed at the conference with 
his commanders in Brussels on 10 Sep- 
tember to defer the Antwerp operation 
while awaiting the outcome of Operation 
Market-Garden. 11 "The attractive pos- 
sibility of quickly turning the German 
north flank led me to approve the 
temporary delay in freeing the vital port 
of Antwerp . . .," the Supreme Com- 
mander wrote later. 12 

Even after blessing Market-Garden, 
General Eisenhower continued to empha- 
size the importance of the Belgian port. 
"I consider the use of Antwerp so 
important to future operations," he wrote 
Field Marshal Montgomery on 13 Sep- 
tember, "that we are prepared to go a long 
way in making the attack a success." 13 
On the same day the Supreme Com- 

9 Ibid., pp. 220-21 . 

10 FWD 13889, Eisenhower to Montgomery, 5 
Sep 44, Pogue files. 

11 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 306-07. 

12 Report by the Supreme Commander to the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff, p. 67. . 

13 FWD 14758, Eisenhower to Montgomery, 13 
Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



210 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



mander issued a new directive in which he 
reiterated both his desire to have the Ruhr 
and his "previously expressed conviction 
that the early winning of deepwater ports 
and improved maintenance facilities in 
our rear are prerequisites to a final all-out 
assault on Germany proper." He con- 
tinued, "Our port position today is such 
that any stretch of a week or ten days of 
bad Channel weather — a condition that 
grows increasingly probable with the re- 
ceding summer — would paralyze our ac- 
tivities and make the maintenance of our 
forces even in defensive roles exceedingly 
difficult." 14 

For all the emphasis on the need for 
Antwerp, the Supreme Commander issued 
no dictum calling for a complete halt of 
the drive on the Ruhr in order to ensure 
opening the port. "The general plan 
. . .," he wrote, "is to push our forces 
forward to the Rhine, securing bridge- 
heads over the river, seize the Ruhr and 
concentrate our forces in preparation for 
a final non-stop drive into Germany." 
The 21 Army Group, which with the 
First U.S. Army was responsible for 
seizing the Ruhr, was "while this is going 
on . . ." to secure either Antwerp or 
Rotterdam as a port and forward base. 15 

In response to this directive, Mont- 
gomery quickly assured the Supreme 
Commander that he was "arranging to 
develop as early as possible operations 
designed to enable the port of Antwerp to 
be used." He explained that he was 
moving a British infantry division and 
headquarters of the First Canadian Army 
to Antwerp immediately. 18 On the same 



14 FWD 14764, Eisenhower to Comdrs, 13 Sep 
44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 

15 Ibid. 

10 Montgomery to Eisenhower, M-205, 14 Sep 
44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



day the Field Marshal issued a new 
directive to his army group. While stat- 
ing that "Our real objective . . . is the 
Ruhr," he said that "on the way" the 
Allies wanted Antwerp, plus Rotterdam. 
Clearance of the Schelde estuary to open 
Antwerp was to be "first priority" for the 
First Canadian Army. 17 

This matter of opening Antwerp be- 
came involved also with the continuing 
debate between General Eisenhower and 
Field Marshal Montgomery over the 
strategy of one thrust in the north as 
opposed to the Supreme Commander's 
"broad front" policy. The temporary ac- 
cord that had come on this issue upon 
approval of Market-Garden at Brussels 
on 10 September had been short-lived. 
Five days later, on 15 September, General 
Eisenhower himself reopened the wound, 
perhaps with a view to healing it once and 
for all through a process of bloodletting. 
Looking beyond both Arnhem and An- 
twerp, he named Berlin as the ultimate 
Allied goal and said he desired to move 
on the German capital "by the most direct 
and expeditious route, with combined 
U.S. -British forces supported by other 
available forces moving through key cen- 
tres and occupying strategic areas on the 
flanks, all in one co-ordinated, concerted 
operation." Writing this to his army 
group commanders, he virtually invited 



17 21 A Gp Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, M-525, 
14 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, I. Italics in the 
original. Capture of Rotterdam was considered 
from time to time but primarily in the event 
Antwerp could not be opened. See SHAEF 
Planning Staff: Relative Priority of Operations 
for the Capture of Rotterdam and Antwerp, 16 
Sep 44, Rapid Capture of Rotterdam, 18 Sep 44, 
and Rapid Capture of the Antwerp Area, dated 
only September 1944 but probably issued 18 
September 1944, all in SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



211 



resumption of the strategy debate by 
asking them to give their reactions. 18 

Field Marshal Montgomery seized the 
opportunity to expound his view of one 
thrust in the north by the 21 Army Group 
plus the First U.S. Army. A cardinal 
principle of his theory was that men and 
supplies should be concentrated on the 
single operation, not frittered away in 
complementary drives. 19 General Brad- 
ley, for his part, returned to the pre-D- 
Day view that drives be made both north 
and south of the Ruhr. After seizure of 
the Ruhr, one main spearhead should be 
directed toward Berlin while the other 
armies supported it with simultaneous 
thrusts. 20 

In announcing his decision, General 
Eisenhower firmly rejected the idea of 
"one single knifelike drive toward Berlin" 
but denied he was considering an advance 
into Germany with all armies moving 
abreast. Instead, he intended, while plac- 
ing his greatest support behind Mont- 
gomery and the First U.S. Army, that the 
Third Army advance in a supporting 
position to prevent concentration of Ger- 
man forces against the main drive and its 
flanks. At this time the Supreme Com- 
mander most concisely stated what has 
become known as his "broad front" policy: 

What I do believe is that we must marshal 
our strength up along the western borders 
of Germany, to the Rhine if possible, insure 
adequate maintenance by getting Antwerp 
to working at full blast at the earliest pos- 



18 Eisenhower to A Gp Comdrs, 15 Sep 44, 
SHAEF SGS 381, I. 

19 Montgomery to Eisenhower, 18 Sep 44; 
Montgomery to Eisenhower, M-223, 21 Sep 44, 
Pogue files. 

20 Bradley to Eisenhower, 21 Sep 44, Pogue 
files. A detailed discussion of the strategy de- 
bate during this period may be found in Pogue, 
The Supreme Command, Ch. XIV. 



sible moment and then carry out the drive 
you [Montgomery] suggest. 21 

This exchange of views, plus Field 
Marshal Montgomery's insistence on put- 
ting everything behind the drive in the 
north to the exclusion of the forces in the 
south, led General Eisenhower to 
conclude that he and his chief British 
subordinate were not talking about the 
same thing. Not one but two drives were 
under consideration: one for getting the 
Ruhr, one after getting the Ruhr. At a 
conference with his army group com- 
manders and supply chiefs at Versailles on 
22 September, he tried to clarify the 
matter. 22 He asked his commanders to 
make a clear distinction between the final 
drive on Berlin and present operations, 
which aimed at breaching the West Wall 
and seizing the Ruhr. For the second 
drive, he said, he required "general ac- 
ceptance of the fact that the possession of 
an additional major deepwater port on 
our north flank was an indispensable 
prerequisite for the final drive deep into 
Germany. The envelopment of the Ruhr 
from the north by 21st Army Group, 
supported by 1st Army," he continued, 
"is the main effort of the present phase of 
operations." In addition, the 21 Army 
Group was to open Antwerp as a matter 
of urgency. 23 

As the meeting progressed on 22 Sep- 
tember, General Eisenhower approved a 
plan whereby the 21 Army Group might 
utilize the gains of Market-Garden and 
the support of the First U.S. Army to 

21 Eisenhower to Montgomery, 20 Sep 44, 
Pogue files. 

22 Montgomery was not present because of 
operational duties connected with Market- 
Garden but was represented by his chief of staff, 
General de Guingand. 

23 Min, Mtg held at SHAEF Fwd, 22 Sep 44, 
SHAEF SGS 381, I. 



212 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



envelop the Ruhr from the north. First 
Army support involved assuming responsi- 
bility for clearing the great gap which had 
developed west of the Maas River between 
the British right flank and the left flank 
of the XIX U.S. Corps, and, so far as 
current resources might permit, continu- 
ing a thrust toward Cologne and Bonn. 24 
This plan General Eisenhower sanctioned 
despite a report from the 21 Army Group 
Chief of Staff, General de Guingand, that 
an attack on Walcheren Island, the most 
formidable German position guarding the 
mouth of the Schelde, could not be 
mounted before 7 October "at the earliest" 
and despite an estimate by the Allied 
naval commander, Admiral Sir Bertram 
H. Ramsey, that somewhere between one 
and three weeks would be required to 
remove the mines from the entrance to 
Antwerp. The port might not be usable 
until about 1 November. 25 

These decisions of 22 September were 
made at a time when hope still remained 
for the unqualified success of Market- 
Garden. Once the possibility of holding 
a bridgehead over the Neder Rijn at 
Arnhem and of outflanking the West Wall 
was gone, Field Marshal Montgomery had 
to turn to another plan for getting the 
Ruhr. While agreeing that the opening of 
Antwerp was "absolutely essential" to any 
deep advance into Germany, he proposed 
that he turn his attention for the moment 
to an existing opportunity to destroy the 
enemy forces barring the way to the Ruhr. 
He suggested that while the First Ca- 
nadian Army cleared the approaches to 
Antwerp, the Second British Army operate 
from Nijmegen against the northwest 

24 Ibid. See also FWD 15510, Eisenhower to 
Bradley, 23 Sep 44, same file. 

25 Bradley to Patton, 23 Sep 44, in 12th A Gp 
371.3, Military Objectives, I. 



corner of the Ruhr in conjunction with a 
drive by the First U.S. Army toward 
Cologne. In effect, this was a return — 
after a deviation imposed by Operation 
Market-Garden — to Montgomery's long- 
advocated plan for capturing the Ruhr 
by a double envelopment. 26 

When General Eisenhower, at "first 
hasty glance," approved this plan, 27 Field 
Marshal Montgomery issued the necessary 
directive. For the Antwerp phase, he 
emphasized that "The Canadian Army 
will at once develop operations designed 
to enable us to have the free use of the 
port of Antwerp. The early completion 
of these operations is vital. . . .'" 28 

Without augmentation of the First 
Canadian Army's ground strength and 
logistical support, this actually was little 
more than lip service to the Antwerp 
cause. Dutifully, the Canadians launched 
an operation on 2 October designed to 
push northwest from Antwerp to seal off 
the isthmus of South Beveland, thereby 
setting the stage for a subsequent drive to 
open the Schelde. At the same time they 
were expected to make another drive 
northward along the left flank of the 
Market-Garden salient to reach the 
south bank of the Maas River, in order 
to release British forces for the drive on 
the Ruhr. A few days later they set out 
to clear the south bank of the estuary. 
Judging from the fighting that developed 
the Canadians would need a long time to 
do the entire complex job of opening 
Antwerp plus clearing the Market- 
Garden left flank. Likewise, a prelim- 



20 De Guingand to Smith, 26 Sep 44, SHAEF 
SGS 381, II. 

27 Eisenhower to Montgomery, 27 Sep 44, 
SHAEF SGS 381, II. 

28 21 A Gp. Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, M-527, 
27 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 381, II. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



213 



inary step necessary before the Second 
British Armv could attack toward the 
Ruhr, that of eliminating the Germans 
from the British right and U.S. left flanks 
west of the Maas, failed when U.S. forces 
encountered unyielding resistance. 29 

Faced with four major tasks — open- 
ing Antwerp, maintaining the Market- 
Garden salient, conducting the Ruhr 
offensive, and committing British forces in 
the great gap west of the Maas — Mont- 
gomery reported to General Eisenhower at 
the end of the first week in October that 
his forces were insufficient. Much of the 
problem, he intimated, might be solved by 
a change in the existing command situa- 
tion between the 21 Army Group and the 
First U.S. Army. This was a return to a 
long-standing tenet of the Field Marshal's 
that for purposes of co-ordination of the 
main thrust in the north, the First Army 
should be under British command. 30 

While admitting that the 21 Army 
Group's commitments were too heavy for 
its resources, General Eisenhower refused 
to agree that the problem had anything to 
do with command. He proposed either 
that U.S. forces relieve the British of some 
responsibility by pushing the 12th Army 
Group boundary northward or that Gen- 
eral Bradley transfer two U.S. divisions 
to the British. He agreed that plans for 
a co-ordinated Ruhr offensive be post- 

29 For the First Canadian Army mission, see 21 
A Gp, M-527. For the action west of the Maas, 
see below, Chapter X. 

30 Montgomery to Eisenhower, M-260, 6 Oct 
44, and M-264, 7 Oct 44, both in Pogue files. 
General Eisenhower consistently refused this re- 
quest. Because a command change did not 
occur during the period of the Siegfried Line 
Campaign and therefore did not affect First 
Army operations directly, the subject is not con- 
sidered in detail in this volume. The command 
controversy is discussed at length in Pogue, The 
Supreme Command. 



poned until more U.S. divisions could 
reach the front. Six of these, he noted, 
were marking time in staging areas on 
the Continent because of lack of trans- 
portation and supplies to maintain them 
up front. 31 

Of the two proposals for strengthening 
the 2 1 Army Group, Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery accepted the second. General 
Bradley thereupon transferred a U.S. 
armored division (the 7 th) to British 
command to help clear the great gap 
between British and U.S. forces west of 
the Maas. He also alerted the 104th 
Infantry Division to move from a Nor- 
mandy staging area to the vicinity of 
Brussels on 15 October to await any call 
for assistance in the Antwerp fight. 32 

Once the Ruhr offensive was postponed 
and two U.S. divisions became available, 
the way was clear for Montgomery to 
strengthen the First Canadian Army for 
the opening of Antwerp, or at least to 
remove the necessity for the Canadians to 
clear the left flank of the Market- 
Garden salient. But the British com- 
mander still thought the Canadians could 
handle both jobs. On 9 October in a 
directive he said: "The use of Antwerp 
is vital to the Allies in order that we 
can develop our full potential. There- 
fore the operations to open the port must 
have priority in regard to troops, ammuni- 
tion, and so on." Yet once again, in the 
matter of an increase in troops, he 
offered no genuine assistance. Still look- 
ing ahead to the Ruhr offensive, Mont- 
gomery forewent strengthening the First 
Canadian Army substantially by chaining 



31 Eisenhower to 21 A Gp for Bradley (msg 
undtd but apparently written 8 Oct 44), Pogue 
files. 

32 Bradley to Hodges, 8 Oct 44, in 12th A Gp 
371.3, Military Objectives, I. 



214 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the Second British Army to two tasks he 
deemed prerequisite to a Ruhr offensive: 
( i ) making "absolutely certain" the 
Nijmegen bridgehead was "firm and 
secure," and (2) clearing the Germans 
from the region west of the Maas. 33 

On the same day that Field Marshal 
Montgomery issued this directive, General 
Eisenhower received a report from the 
Royal Navy that stirred him to action. 
The report apparently climaxed an ap- 
prehension that had been growing in the 
Supreme Commander's mind for several 
days, a concern that the 21 Army Group 
could not open the Schelde estuary while 
at the same time pursuing its other ob- 
jectives. Unless supplied immediately 
with adequate ammunition stocks, the 
report of the Royal Navy indicated, the 
First Canadian Army would be unable to 
move to open Antwerp until November. 

General Eisenhower promptly placed all 
stress on clearing the banks of the 
Schelde. He warned Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery that unless Antwerp were opened 
by the middle of November, Allied 
operations would come to a standstill. 
He declared that "of all our operations on 
our entire front from Switzerland to the 
Channel, I consider Antwerp of first im- 
portance, and I believe that the operations 
designed to clear up the entrance require, 
your personal attention." 34 

Apparently stung by the implication 
that he was not pushing the attack for 
Antwerp, the 21 Army Group commander 
promptly denied the Navy's "wild state- 
ments." The attack, he said, was already 
under way and going well. In passing, 
he reminded the Supreme Commander 

33 21 A Gp Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, M-530, 9 
Oct 44, SHAEF SGS 381, II. 

34 S-61466, Eisenhower to Montgomery, 9 
Oct 44, Pogue files. 



that the Versailles conference of 22 Sep- 
tember had listed the attack on the Ruhr 
as the main effort of the current phase of 
operations, and that General Eisenhower 
only the day before had declared that the 
first mission of both army groups was 
gaining the Rhine north of Bonn. 3 " 

In reply, General Eisenhower explicitly 
spelled out the priority of Antwerp. 
"Let me assure you," he declared in a 
message of 10 October, "that nothing I 
may ever say or write with regard to 
future plans in our advance eastward is 
meant to indicate any lessening of the 
need for Antwerp, which I have always 
held as vital, and which has grown more 
pressing as we enter the bad weather 
period." 36 Three days later, after Field 
Marshal Montgomery again had sug- 
gested changes in the command arrange- 
ment so that he might have greater 
flexibility in his operations, General 
Eisenhower acted to remove any doubts on 
both Antwerp and command. He de- 
clared that the question was not one of 
command but of taking Antwerp. He 
did not know the exact state of the Field 
Marshal's forces, he said, but he knew 
they were rich in supplies as compared 
with U.S. and French units. Because of 
logistical shortages, the need to put 
Antwerp quickly in workable condition 
was pressing. Field Marshal Sir Alan 
Brooke and General Marshall, British and 
U.S. Army chiefs, had emphasized on a 
recent visit to SHAEF that they shared 
this view. Despite the desire to open 
Antwerp, General Eisenhower said, he had 
approved Market-Garden. All recent 
experience, however, had pointed to the 

35 M-268, Montgomery to Eisenhower, 9 Oct 
44, Pogue files. 

36 Eisenhower to Montgomery, 10 Oct 44, 
Pogue files. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



215 



great need for opening of the Schelde 
estuary, and he was willing, "as always," 
to give additional U.S. troops and sup- 
plies to make that possible. 

General Eisenhower added that the 
operation could involve no question of 
command, "Since everything that can be 
brought in to help, no matter of what 
nationality, belongs to you." Then he 
dealt at length with the subject of com- 
mand. If, after receiving these views, 
Field Marshal Montgomery still classed 
them as "unsatisfactory," an issue would 
exist which would have to be settled by 
"higher authority." 37 

Even before this message reached the 21 
Army Group commander, he apparently 
had concluded that the First U.S. Army 
could not reach the Rhine and thus that 
no reason existed for British forces to 
move alone toward the Ruhr. With the 
assertion that the Antwerp operations 
were to assume "complete priority . . ., 
without any qualification whatsoever," he 
had already dispatched "the whole of the 
available offensive power" of the Second 
British Army to help the Canadians speed 
the opening of the port. 38 

After receiving General Eisenhower's 
letter, the Field Marshal assured him that 
"you will hear no more on the subject of 
command from me." He added: 

I have given you my views and you have 
given your answer. I and all of us will 
weigh in one hundred percent to do what 
you want and we will pull it through with- 
out a doubt. I have given Antwerp top 



37 Eisenhower to Montgomery, 13 Oct 44, 
Pogue files. For a discussion of the command 
relationship between Eisenhower and Montgomery,, 
see Pogue, The Supreme Command, pp. 289-90. 

38 21 A Gp Gen Opnl Sit and Dir, M-532, 16 
Oct 44, SHAEF SGS 381, II. See also M-77, 
Montgomery to Eisenhower, 14 Oct 44, Pogue 
files. 



priority in all operations in 21 Army Group 
and all energies and efforts will now be 
devoted towards opening up the place. 
Your very devoted and loyal subordinate. 39 



The Battle of the Schelde 

Much of the difficulty in clearing the 
approaches to Antwerp rested with ter- 
rain. This is the North Sea littoral, 
canal country, much of it below sea level 
and much of it at this time already 
inundated at the personal order of Hitler 
in hope of augmenting German defenses. 40 
(Map 2) The Schelde actually is two 
huge mouths, known as the East Schelde 
and the West Schelde, the latter being of 
primary concern as the channel to An- 
twerp. On the West Schelde's south 
bank the enemy had withdrawn into a 
bastion lying west of the Braakman and 
extending along the south bank to a point 
opposite Zeebrugge on the Channel coast, 
This was to become known, after a minor 
port within the sector, as the Breskens 
Pocket. To protect this pocket on the 
landward side, the Germans had con- 
structed their defensive line behind an 
almost continuous moat formed by the 
Braakman inlet and two canals, the 
Leopold and the Canal de la Derivation 
de la Lys. The West Schelde's north 
bank is formed by South Beveland, a 
peninsula joined to the mainland by an 
isthmus carrying a road and a railway, 
and, farther to the west, by Walcheren 
Island. About ten miles wide and joined 
to South Beveland only by a narrow 
causeway, this island was heavily fortified. 
So formidable did the Allies consider the 



39 M-281, Montgomery to Eisenhower, 16 
Oct 44, Pogue files. 

40 xwx j Army Group B to Fifteenth Army, 
[830, 7 Sep 44, Army Group B, Operationsbefehle. 



THE BATTLE OF THE SCHELDE 

2 October - 8 November 1944 



niJIfllll! nfJIfllll! Allied front line,20ct 
TTTTrTTTTTrTTT Allieo POSITIONS, 8 Nov 

Axis of Allied advance , date indicated 



IZ. ■ £> U S 104 TH DlV AXIS OF ADVANCE, DATE INDICATED 
-AS- 



E><3 



g c rman division 
Flooded area 



5 o 

1 ' l' '' '' I 




MAP 2 



218 

defenses that, in the early stages of plan- 
ning to open Antwerp, General Eisen- 
hower had allotted the First Allied 
Airborne Army to taking Walcheren, 
though this was later canceled. 4 ' 

Whoever set out to clear the banks of 
the West Schelde also had to face the fact 
that the enemy here was a strong, con- 
centrated force. Here was a main part of 
the Fifteenth Army— once Hitler's "anti- 
invasion army,'' which had waited futilely 
for invasion along the Pas de Calais while 
the weaker Seventh Army had absorbed 
the actual blow in Normandy. Although 
some divisions and weapons had been 
detached for use in Normandy, much of 
the Fifteenth Arrny had continued to 
guard the coast against a feared second, 
and perhaps larger. Allied landing. By 
the time the Germans had hearkened to 
the steadily growing danger of Allied 
spearheads racing across northern France 
and Belgium, it was too late. The swift 
British armored thrust which captured 
Brussels and Antwerp during the first 
days of September had trapped the 
Fifteenth Army against the coast. When 
counterattacks failed to break the British 
cordon, the only way out for the Germans 
lay to the north across the waters of the 
Schelde.' 12 



* l Cbl ADSEC (de Guingand) to TAC Hq 
EXFOR (Montgomery), 7 Sep 44, SHAEF SGS 
381. I. Basing their judgment on terrain and 
types of targets, General Brereton, the airborne 
army commander, and Air Chief Marshal Sir 
Trafford Leigh-Mallory, chief of the Allied Ex- 
peditionary Air Force, recommended cancellation. 
General Eisenhower canceled the plan on si 
September 1944. Sec FWD 15384, Eisenhower 
to Montgomery, 21 Sep 44, same file. 

"For additional details, see Lucian Heichler, 
German Defense of the Gateway to Antwerp, a 
study prepared to complement this volume and 
filed in OCMH. 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




General von Zangen 



Having left contingents to hold the 
Channel ports, the Fifteenth Army com- 
mander. General von Zangen, had been 
withdrawing toward the south bank of the 
Schelde with the bulk of his forces when 
word had come from Hitler himself that 
Walcheren Island was to be held as a 
"fortress," after the manner of the Chan- 
nel ports, and that a "permanent" bridge- 
head was to be maintained on the 
Schclde's south bank. 43 As finally form- 
ulated, the German plan called for 
General von Zangen to assume command 
of all of the southwestern part of the 
Netherlands in a sector adjacent to 

"Rads, A Gp B to Fifteenth Army, 1530, § 
Sep. and 0100, 8 Sep 44, A Gp B, Operations- 
bejehh. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



219 



General Student's First Parachute Army. 
Leaving an infantry division (the 64th) to 
defend the south bank of the Schelde, 
Zangen was to install another infantry 
division (the joth) on Walcheren Island 
and a third (the 245th) on the peninsula 
of South Beveland. Because these posi- 
tions were officially labeled "fortresses," 
the divisions operated through no corps 
headquarters but were directly subordi- 
nate to the Fifteenth Army. On the 
mainland, the LXVII Corps under Gen- 
eral der Infanterie Otto Sponheimer was 
to be responsible for a sector north of 
Antwerp along the west flank of the First 
Parachute Army. General Sponheimer 
was to control three divisions, including 
the 7igth Infantry Division, which was in 
sad shape after having constituted the 
west wing of the First Parachute Army 
along the Albert Canal. Another division 
was to act as a Fifteenth Army reserve, 
while another, the $gth Infantry Division 
(General Poppe), was to move to Tilburg 
as Army Group B reserve. As events 
developed, both the $gth Division and the 
245th Division from South Beveland were 
to be shifted against the Market- 
Garden salient. 44 

By 17 September most of these arrange- 
ments had been either initiated or com- 
pleted. In the meantime, General von 
Zangen had been conducting a with- 
drawal from the south bank of the Schelde 
to Walcheren Island. In the light of 
Allied air superiority, this withdrawal was 
one of the more noteworthy German 
accomplishments during this stage of the 
war. As early as four days after British 
armor had trapped the Fifteenth Army by 
seizing Antwerp, nearly ten thousand 

44 Details and documentation of these develop- 
ments may be found in Heichler, German Defense 
of the Gateway to Antwerp. 



Germans already had been ferried across 
the West Schelde from Breskens. By 1 1 
September Allied air attacks had damaged 
Breskens so severely that daily shipping 
capacity had been cut by 40 percent and 
transport across the three-mile width of 
the estuary was impossible during daylight 
except under the foulest weather con- 
ditions. Nevertheless, by 22 September, 
German evacuation was complete. In 
two and a half weeks, the Germans had 
staged a little Dunkerque to the tune of 
more than 86,000 men, more than 600 
artillery pieces, better than 6,000 vehicles, 
over 6,000 horses, and a wealth of mis- 
cellaneous materiel. For all the bombs 
and cannon of Allied aircraft, the Germans 
had saved a small army. 45 

Completion of the Fifteenth Army's 
withdrawal across the West Schelde left 
the Breskens Pocket on the south bank a 
responsibility of the commander of the 
64th Infantry Division, Generalmajor 
Kurt Eberding. Possessing an infantry 
combat strength of roughly 2,350 men, 
General Eberding also had some 8,650 
support and miscellaneous troops. The 
troops were well supplied with machine 
guns, mortars, and artillery. 46 

On the West Schelde's north bank, 
Generalleutnant Wilhelm Daser's Joth 
Infantry Division had an infantry combat 
strength of nearly 7,500, plus some 300 
engineers. These were organized into 
three regiments, two on the island and one 
on South Beveland, the latter after the 
245th Division was shifted eastward 
against the Market-Garden salient. 

45 Daily Sitreps, A Gp B, 0130, 9 Sep, 0215, 
12 Sep, and, 0135, 23 Sep 44, all in A Gp B, 
Tagesmeldungen. Strength figures from Navy 
Special Staff Knuth as furnished by Historical 
Section (GS), Canadian Army Headquarters. 

46 TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 1500, 23 Sep 
44, A Gp B, Operationsbejehle. 



220 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Some German commanders later were to 
criticize commitment of the joth Division 
in a strategic spot like Walcheren, for the 
division represented a collection of men 
suffering from ailments of the digestive 
tract. Because of a special diet required, 
the division was nicknamed the White 
Bread Division. 47 As if to compensate 
for physical shortcomings of the troops, 
the yoth Division controlled an unusual 
wealth of artillery, some 177 pieces, in- 
cluding 67 fixed naval guns. 48 

Two other German divisions were to 
figure prominently in the fighting about 
Antwerp. These were the 346th and 
711th Infantry Divisions of General Spon- 
heimer's LXVII Corps on the mainland 
north of Antwerp. Of the two, the 
346th ( Generalleutnant Erich Diestel) 49 
was the stronger with an infantry combat 
strength of somewhat better than 2,400 
men, augmented by an artillery force of 
thirty-eight 105-mm. howitzers. The 
711th Division (Generalleutnant Josef 
Reichert) was considerably weaker, a 
"static" division which had been badly 
mauled during July and August. In mid- 
September, the 711th had only three 
battalions of German infantry and an- 
other composed primarily of Armenians 
and remnants of an Ost battalion. The 
division had but nine artillery pieces of 
various calibers. Less prominent roles 
would be played by the 7igth Infantry 
Division on the LXVII Corps left wing 
and by contingents of the LXXXVIII 



47 MS # B-274, I ^5- Reserve Division und 
jo. Infanterie, Division 1944 Holland (Daser). 

48 Strength figures for all but the 64th Div are 
from TWX (Weekly Strength Rpt as of 16 Sep 
44), A Gp B to OB WEST, 2400, 22 Sep 44, 
A Gp B, Operationsbefehle. 

49 After 11 October 1944 Generalmajor Walter 
Steinmueller. 



Corps, the latter after the left wing of the 
Second British Army got into the fight. 

On the Allied side, the decisive phase 
of the Antwerp operation opened on 2 
October, two weeks before Field Marshal 
Montgomery blessed it with unequivocal 
priority. Because the First Canadian 
Army commander, General Crerar, was 
absent on sick leave, his temporary re- 
placement, Lt. Gen. G. G. Simonds, was 
in charge. General Simonds employed a 
plan previously formulated under General 
Crerar's direction and involving four main 
tasks: (1) to clear the region north of 
Antwerp and seal off the isthmus to South 
Beveland ; ( 2 ) coinci dentally, to reduce 
the Breskens Pocket south of the Schelde; 
then (3) to seize South Beveland; and 
finally (4) to reduce Walcheren Island. 
All these tasks were to be accomplished by 
the 2d Canadian Corps. When Field 
Marshal Montgomery assigned the addi- 
tional task of clearing the region south of 
the Maas River between the Schelde and 
the Market-Garden salient, General 
Simonds gave the job to the 1st British 
Corps. With the new emphasis on 
Antwerp that came in mid-October, the 
12 Corps of the Second British Army 
assumed part of the latter responsibility. 50 

From a bridgehead across the Antwerp- 
Turnhout Canal northeast of Antwerp, 
the 2d Canadian Division opened the 
decisive phase of the battle of the Schelde 
on 2 October. Against the enemy's 
346th Division, the Canadians attacked 
northwest to seal the isthmus to South 
Beveland. For the first few days the 
Canadian infantry made steady progress, 
but as the drive neared Woensdrecht the 



50 Unless otherwise noted, the story of the First 
Canadian Army operations is based upon Stacey, 
The Canadian Army, pp. 220-30, and Stacey, 
The Victory Campaign. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



221 



stalemate settling over the Market- 
Garden salient permitted the Germans to 
send reinforcements. At Woensdrecht 
they committed both Colonel von der 
Heydte's 6th Parachute Regiment and a 
part of Kampfgruppe Chill? 1 Not until 
1 6 October, two weeks after the start of 
the attack, did Woensdrecht fall. 

In the meantime, on 6 October, the 2d 
Canadian Corps opened the drive on the 
Breskens Pocket with the 3d Canadian 
Division, moving behind massed flame 
throwers, forcing two crossings of the 
Leopold Canal. Here General Eberding's 
64th Division lay in wait. For three days 
the situation in the Canadian bridgeheads 
was perilous. On 9 October contingents 
of the 3d Canadian Division staged an 
amphibious end run from Terneuzen, but 
not until 14 October, after a few tanks 
got across the canal, did substantial 
progress begin. By mid-October, after 
nearly a fortnight's fighting, about half 
the Breskens Pocket remained in German 
hands. 

This was the situation when on 16 
October Field Marshal Montgomery ac- 
corded unqualified support to the battle 
of the Schelde. The net effect was that 
the 12 Corps of the Second British Army 
took over the eastern part of the Canadian 
line to launch a drive from the Market- 
Garden salient near s' Hertogenbosch to 
sweep the south bank of the Maas River. 
Their line thus shortened, the Canadians 
were to push their right wing forward to 
the Maas in that part of the zone remain- 
ing to them between Woensdrecht and 
the British. 

The bitter fight to eliminate the 
Breskens Pocket continued. On 21 Octo- 
ber Breskens finally fell. By the end of 

51 Daily Sitreps, A Gp B, 0045, 8 Oct, and 01 15, 
13 Oct 44, A Gp B, Tagesmeldungen. 



the month the Canadians had pushed 
General Eberding's remaining troops into 
a water-logged pocket near Zeebrugge 
and on 2 November captured the German 
general. All resistance in the Breskens 
Pocket ended the next day. After almost 
a month of the most costly kind of fight- 
ing, the south bank of the West Schelde 
was clear. 

In fulfillment of Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery's directive of 16 October, a corps 
of the Second British Army on 22 October 
opened an offensive with four divisions to 
sweep the south bank of the Maas. At 
the same time, the 1st British Corps on 
the right wing of the First Canadian Army 
began to push northward toward the 
Maas. Its right flank thus protected, the 
2d Canadian Corps was to accelerate 
operations to seize South Beveland and 
Walcheren, thereby to clear the West 
Schelde's north bank. 52 

Making labored but steady progress, the 
Second Army's drive resulted in capture 
of two main objectives, 's Hertogenbosch 
and Tilburg, two and six days, respec- 
tively, after the offensive opened. By the 
end of October Second Army patrols 
linked south of the Maas with the right 
flank of the First Canadian Army's 1st 
British Corps. By 5 November the Sec- 
ond Army had cleared its entire zone. 
Unfortunately, inclement weather during 
much of this period had enabled thous- 
ands of Germans to escape almost un- 
hindered to the north bank of the Maas. 

Commanded by Lt. Gen. Sir John T. 
Crocker, the First Canadian Army's 1st 
British Corps had been far from idle, even 
during the month between mid-September 

52 Unless otherwise noted, the account of the 
Second British Army's October offensive is based 
on Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 
251-67. 



222 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



and mid-October when this corps alone 
had faced the giant task of clearing the 
entire region between South Beveland and 
the Market-Garden corridor. Before 
the end of September General Crocker's 
troops had pushed north to occupy 
Turnhout and had established a sizable 
bridgehead beyond the Antwerp-Turn- 
hout Canal. By the time the Second 
Army took over part of the zone and 
attacked on 22 October, the 1st British 
Corps had pushed north to the Dutch- 
Belgian border. As the Second Army 
joined the offensive, General Crocker's 
corps consisted of one British infantry 
division and two armored divisions, one 
Polish, one Canadian. On 23 October, 
the day after the big drive commenced, 
the corps assumed even more of an inter- 
national complexion as the 104th U.S. 
Infantry Division began moving into the 
line to help in the drive northward to the 
Maas. 

Baptism of Fire 

Commanded by Maj. Gen. Terry de la 
Mesa Allen, who already had gained re- 
nown as commander of the 1st Division in 
North Africa and Sicily, the 104th 
(Timberwolf) Division which entered the 
line on 23 October had never experienced 
combat. Almost two months before, the 
104th had sailed for Europe but had spent 
most of the interval in a Normandy staging 
area because the logistical situation pre- 
cluded maintenance of additional units 
up front. The division became one of 
two — one British ( the 49th Infantry ) , one 
American — with which Field Marshal 
Montgomery bolstered the First Canadian 
Army for the battle of the Schelde. 53 

Men of the Timberwolf Division as- 
sumed responsibility for a sector near the 



Dutch-Belgian frontier astride a main 
highway leading northeast from Antwerp 
to Breda, some twenty miles south of the 
Maas River and six miles southwest of a 
German strongpoint in the village of 
Zundert. Here, at the town of Wuest- 
wezel, the troops scarcely had time to 
erase their awe of combat or to become 
familiar with their surroundings — flat, 
pine-studded, water-soaked terrain — be- 
fore General Crocker ordered that they 
join the corps offensive northward. The 
initial division objective was Zundert. 

The German situation in the sector of 
the 1st British Corps where the 104th 
Division was to operate obviously had 
become almost remediless. The day the 
Allied offensive began, the Commander in 
Chief West, Rundstedt, had admitted as 
much, though somewhat obliquely, in an 
appeal to the German high command. 
"On the occasion of my visit to Fifteenth 
Army" Rundstedt reported, "I was able 
personally to witness the exhaustion of 
the divisions fighting in the penetration 
area. For continuation of the operations 
there — which will decide the use of 
Antwerp harbor — immediate arrival of 
sufficient replacements is of decisive im- 
portance . . . ." 34 Four days later, in 
authorizing a withdrawal in front of the 
1 st British Corps, Rundstedt warned that 
this move was not to be interpreted "by 

53 The 104th Division story is based upon 
official unit records; a comprehensive unit history 
by Leo A. Hoegh and Howard J. Doyle, Timber- 
wolf Tracks (Washington: Infantry Journal 
Press, 1946), pp. 43-102; and Lt Oliver J. Kline, 
Action North of Antwerp, in Ninth United States 
Army Operations. Vol. Ill, Combat in Holland, 
a mimeographed series prepared by the 4th 
Information and Historical Service and filed with 
official Ninth Army records. 

" 4 TWX. OB WEST to OKW, 11 15. 22 Oct 
44, OB WEST, Befehle/Meldungen 21.X.-31.X. 
44. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



223 



any stretch of the imagination" as fore- 
shadowing a general withdrawal. That, 
he said, "is, and will be out of the 
question." 53 

No amount of forceful language actu- 
ally could conceal that this authorized 
withdrawal was, in fact, a first step in a 
general withdrawal behind the water bar- 
riers to the north. Two days later, 
Rundstedt noted in a report to the high 
command that the Fifteenth Army would 
fight forward of the Maas, "to the last. 
Nonetheless," he added, "it is my duty to 
report that, if the heavy enemy pressure 
continues, we must expect the gradual 
but total destruction of Fifteenth Army — 
unless its mission is changed." 56 When 
this report reached Hitler, the Fuehrer 
displayed — for him — a remarkably sympa- 
thetic acceptance of the facts. Though 
Hitler reiterated that the Fifteenth Army 
must hold well south of the Maas, he as 
much as sanctioned further withdrawals 
by adding, "If new and serious penetra- 
tions should result from continued enemy 
attacks, threatening to destroy elements of 
the army, Fifteenth Army will at least 
maintain large bridgeheads south of the 
Maas . . . ." 57 

Though unaware of these German 
conversations, General Crocker's intelli- 
gence staff nevertheless had divined that 
the Germans had no choice but to delay 
in successive positions. The last in the 
sector of the ist British Corps no doubt 
would be based upon the little Mark 
River, which runs generally from east to 
west about five miles south of the Maas. 

55 Order, OB WEST to A Gp B, 2145, 26 Oct 
44, OB WEST, Befehle/Meldungen. 

r,6 Rpt, Rundstedt to Jodl (OKW), 1330, 28 
Oct 44, OB WEST, Befehle/Meldungen. 

57 Order, OB WEST to A Gp B (relaying Hitler 
order), 2355, 29 Oct 44, OB WEST, Befehle/ 
Meldungen. 



This was, in fact, the tack which the 
Fifteenth Army commander, General vori 
Zangen, followed in interpreting Hitler's 
orders as sanction for withdrawing to 
bridgeheads south of the Maas. 08 

On a lower level the 104th Division, in 
assuming positions along the Antwerp- 
Breda highway, had occupied a line 
virtually astride the boundary between 
the enemy's 346th and 711th Divisions. 
The first of the delaying positions the 
104th Division expected to encounter was 
southwest of Zundert almost exactly 
along the Dutch-Belgian border, a position 
manned by an estimated seven under- 
strength infantry battalions. 

Advancing due north with three regi- 
ments abreast, General Allen's Timber- 
wolves received their baptism of fire on 25 
October. By nightfall they had pushed 
back stubborn German patrols and out- 
posts almost to the frontier. Continuing 
to advance in the darkness, the men made 
the first in a long procession of night 
attacks that were eventually to give the 
104th Division something of a name in 
that department. The second day they 
forced the main delaying groups south- 
west of Zundert to withdraw and by 
daylight on 27 October were set to assault 
the village. 

While two regiments maintained pres- 
sure west of the Antwerp-Breda highway, 
the 413th Infantry (Col. Welcome P. 
Waltz) moved close behind an artillery 
preparation to storm the objective. Sup- 
ported by attached British Churchill 
tanks, the regiment seized Zundert before 
the end of the day. No longer did men 
of the 104th wonder at the swish of a shell 

58 Rpt, A Gp B to OB WEST, 29 Oct 44, OB 
WEST, Befehle/Meldungen: British intelligence 
estimates are reflected in 104th Div, Annex 2, 
Intel Annex to AAR, 23-31 Oct 44, dtd 5 Nov 44. 



224 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



whether it was coming in or going out. 
They knew what it meant to kill men and 
to have their own killed. If a machine 
gun went "br-r-r-r-r-p," it was German; 
if it went "put-put-put," it was one of 
their own. The green division was fast 
becoming experienced. 

The next day, 28 October, the 104th 
Division occupied Rijsbergen, about half- 
way from Zundert to Breda. That night 
the 415th Infantry (Col. John H. Coch- 
ran) launched the second night attack in 
the division's short combat history to 
break another delaying position covering 
the Roosendaal-Breda highway that ran 
diagonally across the division's front about 
seven miles north of Zundert. General 
Allen now was prepared to direct his 
troops either on Breda or to the north and 
northwest against the Mark River. 

Even as Colonel Cochran's 415th Infan- 
try was reaching the Roosendaal-Breda 
road, General Allen was receiving his 
orders. Along with the three other di- 
visions of the corps, which had been ad- 
vancing generally northward on either 
flank of the Americans, the 104th Division 
was to be reoriented to the northwest to 
force crossings of the Mark. Responsibil- 
ity for Breda was to fall to the 1st Polish 
Armored Division on the 104th Division's 
right. 

By 30 October, sixth day of the 
offensive, General Allen had concentrated 
his division along the Roosendaal-Breda 
highway. As the day opened, Colonel 
Cochran's 415th Infantry spearheaded a 
drive toward the Mark River in quest of 
a crossing near the village of Stand- 
daarbuiten. The 414th Infantry (Col. 
Anthony J. Touart) subsequently was to 
cross and pursue the attack to seize Klun- 
dert, almost within sight of the south bank 
of the Maas. 



As the 415th Infantry neared a bridge 
over the Mark at Standdaarbuiten, any 
doubt that this was to be the enemy's 
main position rapidly dissolved. Machine 
gun, mortar, and artillery fire showered 
across from the north bank. Even so, a 
sneak attack by one battalion almost suc- 
ceeded in seizing the bridge intact; only 
at the last moment did the Germans 
blow it. 

Neither the 49th British Infantry Di- 
vision on the io4th's left flank nor the 1st 
Polish Armored Division on the right had 
yet reached the Mark. Perhaps counting 
on the surprise a quick thrust might 
achieve, the corps commander, General 
Crocker, told General Allen not to wait 
for the other divisions but to force a 
crossing of the river alone before daylight 
the next day. The 415th Infantry's 1st 
Battalion, commanded by Maj. Fred E. 
Needham, drew the assignment. 

Crossing northeast of Standdaarbuiten 
just before dawn on 31 October, men of 
the leading company clung to the sides of 
their assault boats to avoid grazing 
machine gun fire that swept the crossing 
site. Once on the north bank, they 
stormed across an open meadow to gain 
protection along a dike from which they 
might cover the crossing of subsequent 
waves. By 0900 the entire battalion had 
made it and pushed more than a thousand 
yards beyond the river. But here the 
Germans forced a halt. The men could 
advance no farther, and German fire on 
the exposed crossing site denied reinforce- 
ment. Enemy shelling severely limited 
use of the battalion's 81 -mm. mortars 
and frustrated all efforts to keep tele- 
phones working. A heavy mist not only 
precluded any use of air support but also 
restricted the effectiveness of counter- 
battery artillery fires. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



225 




Mek of the 104th Division dig foxholes near Standdaarbuiten. 



:< Needham's men nevertheless 
held their tiny bridgehead 
until late afternoon when the Germans 
stormed the position with infantry sup- 
ported by six tanks. Firing into individ- 
ual foxholes, the tanks soon encircled the 
position. As night came General Crocker 
gave approval to withdraw what was left 
of the battalion. A patrol led by Lt. 
William C. Tufts managed to cross the 
river and break through to the battalion 
to facilitate withdrawal of most of the 
men that were left. Two days later the 
division discovered that sixty-five officers 
and men, unable to withdraw, had hidden 
in buildings and foxholes, subsisted on 
raw I 



American shelling and German patrols 
without the loss of a man. 

For the next day and well into 2 
November, the 104th Division held along 
the south bank of the Mark while General 
Allen and the other division commanders 
of the 1 st British Corps planned with 
General Crocker for a co-ordinated at- 
tack. General Crocker's final order di- 
rected assaults on the river line by the 
British and Americans at 2100 on 2 
November while the Poles launched a 
separate attack farther to the east, north 
of Breda. Colonel Waltz's 413th Infan- 
try was to cross west of Standdaarbuiten 
with one battalion closely followed by the 
of the 



226 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Cochran's 415th Infantry was to send a 
battalion across at Standdaarbuiten and 
another just east of the village. The 
414th Infantry was to feign a crossing 
farther east and support the others by fire. 

The 104th Division G— 2, Lt. Col. Mark 
S. Plaisted, estimated that within the 
division's boundaries the Germans held 
the north bank with the remnants of nine 
infantry battalions totaling 1,200 to 1,300 
men. Prisoners, he said, had told of the 
arrival of 200 replacements three days 
before and of German commanders who 
threatened their troops with force to fight 
to the last. 

For an hour preceding the nighttime 
assault, guns all along the corps front 
ripped into the German line north of the 
river. Sprinkling their volleys liberally 
with lethal timed bursts, artillerymen of 
the 104th Division concentrated much of 
their fire on Standdaarbuiten, believed to 
be a German strongpoint. 

In the left of the division sector, a 
battalion of the 413th Infantry com- 
manded by Lt. Col. Collins Perry made 
the assault. Although the men were 
subjected to small arms fire even as they 
scrambled into their assault boats, they 
stuck to their task. Reaching the far 
shore, they found that only a few yards 
farther they faced a canal almost as wide 
as the Mark. Without hesitation, the 
men plunged into the chill water and 
waded across. Wet to their armpits and 
plagued in the darkness by persistent 
mortar and small arms fire, they never- 
theless pushed steadily forward. The rest 
of the regiment followed and set about 
jamming a left hook around to the north 
of Standdaarbuiten. 

A driving force in the advance of 
Colonel Perry's battalion was a weapons 
platoon leader, 1st Lt. Cecil H. Bolton. 



Wounded while directing fire of his 
60-mm. mortars on two German machine 
guns, Lieutenant Bolton nevertheless led a 
bazooka team against the positions. He 
charged the first machine gun alone to 
kill the crew with hand grenades. Then 
he led the bazooka team through intense 
fire toward the second gun. They killed 
the three Germans who manned it. 
Lieutenant Bolton later led the bazooka 
team against an enemy 88 and directed fire 
to knock out the gun. He subsequently 
received the Medal of Honor. 

In the meantime, the battalion crossing 
at Standdaarbuiten found that the artil- 
lery preparation had taken ah awesome 
toll of the village and the enemy positions. 
The men quickly swept through. A few 
hundred yards farther east, another bat- 
talion successfully hurdled the river, despite 
machine gun and rifle fire at the crossing 
site, and soon linked its bridgehead to 
the others. Shortly after midnight the 
Germans counterattacked with infantry 
supported by four tanks, but the men of 
the 415th Infantry were too well es- 
tablished. They dispatched the Germans 
with small arms fire and timely artillery 
support. 

By 01 15, 3 November, only slightly 
more than four hours after the infantry 
had begun to cross the Mark, 104th 
Division engineers had constructed a 
treadway bridge near Standdaarbuiten. 
As they began work on a Bailey bridge, 
disturbingly accurate German shellfire be- 
gan to fall. Before daylight enemy shell- 
ing knocked out a section of the treadway 
bridge. Convinced that the Germans had 
an observer in the vicinity, the engineers 
after dawn conducted a thorough search. 
They found a German officer and a 
sergeant hidden beneath the abutment of 
the old bridge directing fire by radio. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



227 



By noon of 3 November a cohesive 
German line along the Mark River obvi- 
ously had ceased to exist. Hostile artil- 
lery fire decreased as the Germans 
apparently withdrew their big guns toward 
their escape route at Moerdijk. Though 
countless strongpoints manned by diehard 
defenders remained to be cleared before 
the south bank of the Maas would be 
free, the British and the Poles had made 
comparable progress on either flank of the 
Americans, so that it could be only a 
question of time before the campaign 
south of the Maas would be over. Across 
the bleak and forbidding marshland and 
across canals and dikes swept by cold 
winds, the pursuit continued. At last the 
weather began to clear and British aircraft 
joined the battle. The Americans found 
close liaison between the British planes 
and air support teams attached to the 
infantry a rewarding experience. 59 

On 4 November the First U.S. Army 
directed that, as soon as released by the 
First Canadian Army, the 104th Division 
was to move to the vicinity of Aachen. 
The next day, when General Crocker as- 
signed the division an additional mission 
of assisting the Polish armor to take 
Moerdijk, General Allen decided to give 
the task to his division reserve, the 414th 
Infantry, while withdrawing the rest of 
the division to prepare for the move to 
Aachen. On 6 November this move 
began. 

Colonel Touart's 414th Infantry main- 
tained pressure on the holdout position at 
Moerdijk until late on 7 November when 
relieved by a British regiment. The Poles 
and the British cleared the last Germans 
from the south bank of the Maas the 
next day, 8 November. 



The campaign in the southwestern part 
of the Netherlands had cost the 104th 
Division in its first action almost 1,400 
casualties. 60 The division made no esti- 
mate of enemy losses but recorded the 
capture of 658 prisoners. Though the 
fighting had been basically unspectacular, 
it had achieved the valuable end of 
establishing a firm and economical north- 
ern flank for the 2 1 Army Group along 
the south bank of the Maas. 

South Beveland and W alcheren 

By 24 October, only a day after the 
104th Division first had moved into the 
line, earlier advances of General Crocker's 
1 st British Corps already had helped to 
provide a firm base near Woensdrecht for 
operations westward against South Beve- 
land, while progress along the south bank 
of the West Schelde had removed any 
danger of German guns in the Breskens 
Pocket intervening in a fight on South 
Beveland. That same day the Canadians 
opened a drive to clear the estuary's north 
bank. 

Despite the narrowness of the isthmus, 
a situation accentuated by flooded low- 
lands off the roads, the Canadians regis- 
tered an advance of two and a half miles 
the first day. With the help of a British 
brigade that crossed the West Schelde in 
assault boats from the south bank on 26 
October, they rapidly swept the penin- 
sula. It was a hard fight; for the Ger- 
mans had on the peninsula four battalions 
of infantry, two battalions of fortress 
troops, and ten batteries of artillery. But 
at last, in congruence with Hitler's 
expressed theory that "Defense of the 
Schelde Estuary is based on the heavy 



50 Kline, Action North of Antwerp. 



179 killed, 856 wounded, 356 missing. 



228 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



batteries on Walcheren Island," the yoth 
Division commander, General Daser, with- 
drew the survivors from South Beveland 
for a last-ditch defense of Walcheren. 61 
By the end of October, South Beveland 
was in Allied hands. 

The worst obstacle to free use of the 
port of Antwerp remained: the island of 
Walcheren. The scene during the Na- 
poleonic era of a disastrous British 
military failure, here a garrison of some 
10,000 men formed around the yoth 
(White Bread) Division awaited the in- 
evitable final fight. 62 

Almost a month earlier the Allies had 
launched their first blow against the yoth 
Division by invoking the wrath of the sea 
upon Walcheren Island. Because the 
island is shaped like a saucer and almost 
all the interior lies below sea level, the 
acting First Canadian Army commander, 
General Simonds, had believed that Allied 
bombs could breach the dikes and thereby 
flood most of the island. While German 

(il Orders, OB WEST to A Gp B, 20 Oct, 2355, 
29 Oct (relaying Hitler order), and 2215, 31 Oct 
44, all in OB WEST, Befehle/ Meldungen. 

02 In estimating German units on Walcheren, 
intelligence officers of the First Canadian Army- 
drew a chuckle at their own expense. Having 
stated that one of the German battalions con- 
sisted of "Americans," the Canadians with tongue 
in cheek sought an explanation in their next 
intelligence summary. "The map has been in- 
spected by a more experienced eye," the second 
summary stated, "and clearly indicates that 
'i/III/Armen/128' is the sub-unit in question. 
There are strong indications that this means 
'Armenians.' That there may be elements of 
Americans operating to rearwards of almost any 
German force cannot be denied in the light of 
experience at Argentan and Elbeuf. But that 
they are an integral part of a German training 
division is considered on balance to be unlikely." 
See Incl 5 to VII Corps G-2 Per Rpt 115, 29 
Oct 44, wherein the VII Corps follows the lead 
of SHAEF in reproducing the discussion "in the 
interests of Allied co-operation and North Ameri- 
can unity." 



movement would be restricted, the Allies 
might use their profusion of amphibious 
vehicles to turn the flood to advantage. 
Although some experts had been dubious, 
on 3 October the experiment had been 
tried. Striking the big Westkapelle dike 
along the western edge of the island, 
bombers of the RAF Bomber Command 
had sent the North Sea rolling through a 
breach eighty yards wide. The next day 
the bombers had returned to widen the 
gap by another hundred yards. Although 
the Germans had tried to stem the flood 
with emergency dikes, gravity and the sea 
had flouted their efforts. 63 

The greater portion of the island was 
flooded, but the fact remained that most 
German defenses were on higher ground. 
The main reliance for seizing Walcheren 
rested with seaborne assaults assisted by 
a drive across the causeway from South 
Beveland. During the night of 31 Octo- 
ber the Canadians assailed the narrow 
causeway to gain a tenuous foothold on 
Walcheren, but they could not make it 
stick. On 1 November British com- 
mandos sailed across the West Schelde 
from Breskens to establish a beachhead 
against only moderate resistance near the 
island's southern port of Flushing. By 
nightfall much of Flushing was under 
British control. The same day a seaborne 
force mounted at Ostend launched a 
frontal assault on strong, undamaged 
fortifications near Westkapelle. Tidal 
conditions having dictated a daylight 
assault, the British craft were easy targets 
for the enemy's big coastal guns. Never- 
theless, aided by a timely strike by RAF 
Typhoons, the commandos fought their 
way ashore. The fall of the bastion of 



03 Daily Sitrep, A Gp B, o 1 1 5, 4 Oct 44, A Gp 

B, T agesmeldungen. 



THE APPROACHES TO ANTWERP 



229 



Walcheren became only a question of 
hard fighting and time. 

On the eastern side of the island, the 
Canadians at last had forced a bridgehead 
across the constricted causeway, but they 
could not expand it. British units took 
over with little more success until on the 
night of 2 November they moved in as- 
sault boats south of the causeway to gain 
another foothold on the island. Two days 
later troops in the two bridgeheads linked 
and started westward. 

In the meantime, the British at Flushing 
and at Westkapelle had joined forces on 3 
November. A systematic advance to 
clear all Germans from the island ensued. 
On 6 November the town of Middelburg 
fell and General Daser surrendered. On 
8 November, eight days after the first 
attack, the British reported all organized 
resistance on Walcheren at an end. Mean- 
while, on 2 November, North Beveland 
also had fallen. 

The battle to clear the approaches to 
Antwerp was over. Only casualty figures 
could adequately bespeak the bitterness of 
a fight waged under appalling conditions 
of cold, rain, mud, and flood. Between 
1 October and 8 November, the First 
Canadian Army — including Canadian, 
British, Polish, Czechoslovakian, French, 
and American troops — had incurred near- 
ly 13,000 casualties. More than 6,000 
of these were Canadians. The Germans 
had lost in prisoners alone more than 
40,000 men. 

Even as the commandos and infantry 
rooted the last resistance from Walcheren 
Island, mine sweeping began on the 
Schelde estuary. Some three weeks later, 
on 28 November, almost three months 
(eighty- five days) after British armor had 
seized Antwerp's wharves and docks in- 
tact, the first convoy of Allied ships 



dropped anchor in the port. Antwerp at 
long last was capable of producing for 
the Allied cause. 

Something Beastly in Antwerp 

Allied ships were free to enter the port, 
yet clearing the approaches to Antwerp 
failed to spell an end to troubles besetting 
the city itself. Indeed, as indicated by 
the date of 14 October on a terse an- 
nouncement in the intelligence report of a 
British division, Antwerp's troubles over- 
lapped. Noted the report: ". . . some- 
thing beastly fell in Antwerp yesterday." 64 

That "something beastly" was a V- 
bomb, one of two types of long-range 
projectiles which the Germans introduced 
during 1944. Probably as counterpropa- 
ganda to Allied use of the letter V for 
Victory, German propagandists named 
these projectiles after the German Vergel- 
tung for vengeance. 65 The first to be 
introduced was the V-i, a pilotless air- 
craft or flying bomb; the next was the 
V-2, a supersonic rocket. After London, 
Antwerp was the city most seriously 
affected by these weapons. 66 

From launching sites in the Netherlands 
and Germany, the Germans bombarded 
Antwerp with V-bombs and rockets all 
through the latter portion of the Siegfried 
Line Campaign and as late as 30 March 
1945. At least 1,214 V-i's and V-2's, a 
conservative estimate, struck Antwerp, 

04 7th Br Armd Div Intel Summary 124, 14 
Oct 44, as cited in FUSA G-2 Per Rpt 130, 18 
Oct 44, found in FUSA G-2 TAC Jnl file, 
18-19 Oct 44. 

65 Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 140, n. 
37- 

(>r ' For a detailed study of the history and effect 
of the V-weapons upon Allied military opera- 
tions, see Royce L. Thompson, Military Impact 
of the German V-weapons, 1943- 1945, prepared 
in OCMH. 



230 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



while another 2,500 exploded in the 
environs. Casualties were high. Some 
2,900 Antwerp civilians were killed and 
another 5,433 seriously injured. Losses 
among Allied military personnel were 734 
killed and 1,078 seriously wounded, a 
total of 1,812. The most disastrous single 
incident resulting from V-weapon attacks 
either in Antwerp or elsewhere on the 
Continent occurred in Antwerp on 16 
December when a V-2 hit the Rex 
Cinema during a crowded matinee. In 
one blow, 296 soldiers were killed and 194 
seriously injured. 

In terms other than casualties, damage 
to military facilities in Antwerp and the 
port was slight, though civilian property 
loss was enormous. Major military losses 
were 2 or more warehouses, temporary 
damage to 1 lock, and slight damage to 
20 berths. Perhaps the greatest advant- 
age accruing to the Germans from the 
bombardment was a drain upon Allied 
manpower, ordnance, and equipment oc- 
casioned by intricate and heavily manned 
antiaircraft defenses employed about the 
city. 6 ' Although military authorities were 
concerned at times about unrest among 
dock workers and about civilian morale 



in general, the citizens of Antwerp rallied 
to the challenge much as did the people 
of London. In the end, Allied use of 
Antwerp as a port never was seriously 
impaired by the bombardment. At times 
the port handled an average of 25,000 
tons of supplies per day. 

The third primary target of the V- 
weapons was the Belgian industrial city of 
Liege. As the First U.S. Army turned 
Liege into a major supply center, the 
Germans as early as 14 September sited 
their bombs and rockets against the city. 
During the course of the war, Liege was 
hit about 1,086 times, while another 
thousand projectiles exploded nearby. 
Civilian casualties totaled 1,158, while 92 
soldiers were killed and 336 wounded. 
The only major damage to military installa- 
tions was the loss of a hospital and some 
250,000 gallons of gasoline. As at 
Antwerp, the V-weapons, for all the terror 
of them, proved highly inaccurate and 
never interfered seriously with military 
operations at Liege. 



07 Labeled "Antwerp X," the antiaircraft de- 
fense of the city employed 18,000 troops and more 
than 500 antiaircraft guns. 



CHAPTER X 

The Peel Marshes 



Culmination of the fight for Antwerp 
meant that with one exception the front 
of the 21 Army Group was economical 
and secure. Yet the exception was not 
minor. Until it could be taken care of, 
the British could not launch their long- 
delayed Ruhr offensive. 

The problem lay in that region west of 
the Maas River between the Market- 
Garden salient and the 2 1 Army Group 
boundary with the XIX U.S. Corps eleven 
miles north of Maastricht. Situated be- 
tween the British and Americans, this 
region had become a joint problem as 
early as mid-September when the Ameri- 
cans had driven northeastward via Aachen 
and the British had turned northward 
toward Eindhoven, two divergent thrusts 
creating a great gap which would remain 
a threat to the open flanks of both forces 
until somebody got around to closing it. 
As events developed, neither Americans 
nor British were to turn sufficient atten- 
tion to the gap until the Germans had 
displayed their penchant for exploiting 
oversights and weaknesses of their ad- 
versaries. 

First Army Draws the Assignment 

On 22 September — the day when Gen- 
eral Hodges authorized postponement of 
the West Wall assault of the XIX Corps, 
when Hodges' entire army went on the 
defensive, and when hope still existed that 
Operation Market-Garden might suc- 



ceed — the great gap on the left flank of 
the XIX Corps became not only a threat 
and an annoyance to the First Army but 
also First Army's responsibility. This 
stemmed from the conference of 22 
September at Versailles when General 
Eisenhower and his top commanders had 
noted the magnitude of the 21 Army 
Group's assignments and decided that the 
British needed help. 1 

To strengthen the British and thereby 
facilitate Field Marshal Montgomery's 
proposed new thrust against the Ruhr, 
the commanders agreed to adjust the 
boundary between the two army groups 
northward from the old boundary which 
ran eleven miles north of Maastricht. 
General Bradley's 12th Army Group — 
more specifically, the First Army and in 
turn the XIX Corps — was to assume 
responsibility for the major portion of the 
region west of the Maas that had been 
lying fallow in the British zone. At least 
two British divisions thus would be freed 
to move to the Market-Garden salient, 
the steppingstone for the projected Ruhr 
offensive. To become effective on 25 
September, the new boundary ran north- 
east from Hasselt through the Belgian 
town of Bree and the Dutch towns of 
Weert, Deurne, and Venray to the Maas 
at Maashees (all-inclusive to the 12th 
Army Group ) . The detailed location of 

1 Min, Mtg held at SHAEF FWD, 22 Sep 44, 
12th A Gp Military Objectives, 371.3, I; see also, 
Ltr, Bradley to Patton, 23 Sep 44, same file 



232 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the boundary was to be settled by direct 
negotiation between Montgomery and the 
First Army commander, General Hodges, 
while any extension of it beyond Maashees 
was to "depend upon the situation at a 
later date." 2 

The task of the First Army in the Ruhr 
offensive became, for the moment, to clear 
the region west of the Maas while pre- 
paring, as far as logistical considerations 
would permit, for a renewal of the push 
toward Cologne. To provide forces for 
the new area of responsibility, General 
Bradley ordered the Third Army to re- 
lease the 7th Armored Division to the 
First Army and also gave General Hodges 
the 29th Division from the campaign 
recently concluded at Brest. These two 
divisions, Montgomery, Bradley, and 
Hodges agreed at a conference on 24 
September, should be sufficient for clear- 
ing the region, whereupon one of the two 
might hold the west bank of the Maas 
while the other joined the main body of 
the First Army in the drive on Cologne. 
Because Montgomery intended that a 
British corps in a later stage of the Ruhr 
offensive would drive southeast between 
the Maas and the Rhine, the commanders 
foresaw no necessity for extending the 
new boundary east of the Maas beyond 
Maashees. 3 

Despite the expectation that the First 
Army would not have to go beyond the 
Maas in the new sector, General Hodges 
was unhappy with the arrangement. 
Without a firm guarantee that the new 
boundary would not be extended, he 

2 Ltr, Bradley to Patton, 23 Sep 44; FWD 
1 55 10, Eisenhower to 12th A Gp for Bradley and 
21 A Gp for Montgomery, 23 Sep 44; Min, Mtg 
at SHAEF FWD, 22 Sep 44. All in 12th A Gp 
371.3, Military Objectives, I. 

3 Ltr, Bradley to Eisenhower, 25 Sep 44, 12th 
A Gp 371.3 Military Objectives, I. 



could visualize a dispersion of his army's 
strength east of the river. Furthermore, 
he had been counting on the 29th Divi- 
sion to protect his own exposed flank, 
most of which lay east of the Maas; but 
use of' the division for this mission now 
obviously would be delayed. 4 

General Hodges apparently took these 
concerns with him on 26 September when 
he conferred with Field Marshal Mont- 
gomery and the Second British Army 
commander, General Dempsey, for he 
emerged from the meeting with an 
arrangement that satisfied him. Instead 
of a plan using both the 7th Armored and 
29th Divisions, a plan was approved 
whereby only the armor was to be em- 
ployed, plus the 1 1 3th Cavalry Group and 
a unit of comparable size provided by the 
British, the 1st Belgian Brigade. 5 As for 
the boundary, the British had agreed on a 
line running from Maashees southeast, 
south, and southwest along the Maas 
back to the old boundary eleven miles 
north of Maastricht, thereby giving Gen- 
eral Hodges the assurance he wanted 
against having to conduct operations 

4 Sylvan Diary, entries of 24 and 26 Sep 44. 

5 Commanded by Colonel Piron, B. E. M., the 
1 st Belgian Brigade had three motorized infantry 
companies (325 men each), a field artillery 
battery, an engineer company, a squadron of 
armored cars, and headquarters, signal, supply, 
and medical personnel. Armed, equipped, and 
supplied by the British, the brigade fought with 
the British in Normandy and participated in the 
liberation of Brussels. Although the Kingdom of 
Belgium subsequently augmented Allied ranks 
with a number of units made up primarily of 
men from the Resistance, the troops of the 1st 
Belgian Brigade were Belgians who had escaped 
to England during and after 1940. See Narra- 
tive History by Colonel Mampuys, Directeur 
Superieur du Renseignment et de l'Historique, 
attached to Ltr, 6 Sep 51, Maj Count I. G. 
Du Monceau de Bergendal, Attache Militaire et 
de l'Air, Embassy of Belgium, Washington, D.C., 
to OCMH. 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



233 



east of the river. 6 The end result was 
that the First Army was assigned a giant, 
thumb-shaped corridor about sixteen 
miles wide, protruding almost forty miles 
into the British zone west of the Maas. 
The entire corridor encompassed more 
than 500 square miles. 

That the basic objective in creation of 
the corridor, assisting the British in the 
Ruhr offensive, might have been handled 
with less complexity by attaching Ameri- 
can forces to British command and leav- 
ing the boundary in its old position eleven 
miles north of Maastricht must have been 
considered. After the war, General Brad- 
ley noted three reasons for the unorthodox 
arrangement, all related to the matter of 
supply. First, U.S. supply lines led more 
directly into the region; second, putting 
U.S. troops under British command would 
have complicated the supply picture be- 
cause of differences in calibers and types 
of weapons; and third, U.S. troops, 
General Bradley had remarked as far 
back as the Tunisian campaign, disliked 
British supplies, particularly British ra- 
tions. 7 

The area which the First Army in- 
herited is featured by the extensive low- 
lands of De Peel, or the Peel Marshes, a 
vast fen lying in the upper western part 
of the region. Covering some sixty square 
miles between the Maas and Eindhoven, 
the marshes are traversed only by a 
limited road net. They represent an 
obvious military obstacle of great t racts of 



(Map 
British 



swampland and countless canals. 
I 3)1 By 25 September, when the 
relinquished control of the sector, the 
corridor was clear as far north as a canal 
several miles within the Netherlands, the 



Nederweert-Wessem Canal which runs 
diagonally across the corridor between 
the town of Nederweert at the south- 
western edge of the Peel Marshes and a 
point on the Maas near Wessem, nine 
miles north of the old army group 
boundary. 

In early planning, when it was expected 
that two U.S. divisions would be em- 
ployed in the corridor, the XIX Corps 
commander, General Corlett, had in- 
tended to clear the base of the corridor as 
far north as the Peel Marshes with the 
two divisions, then to dispatch a highly 
mobile force along a narrow neck of 
comparatively high ground between the 
marshes and the Maas to link with the 
British at the north end of the corridor. 8 
But General Hodges, after conferring with 
the British commanders on 26 September, 
had radically altered the plan. Hodges 
directed that the 7th Armored Division 
pass around through the British zone and 
make the main attack southward along 
the narrow neck of land between the 
marshes and the Maas. Coincidentally, 
the 1 st Belgian Brigade and the 1 1 3th 
Cavalry Group were to launch a secon- 
dary thrust from the south. The 29th 
Division thus would be available immedi- 
ately to hold the north flank of the XIX 
Corps east of the Maas, thereby freeing 
the entire 2d Armored and 30th Divisions 
to break through the West Wall north of 
Aachen and participate in the drive on 
Cologne. 9 

So optimistic was General Hodges that 
a combination of the XIX Corps West 
Wall offensive and a renewal of the attack 



Sylvan Diary, entry of 26 Sep 44. 
7 Interv with Bradley, 7 Jun 56 ; Bradley, A 
Soldier's Story, pp. 56-59. 



8 Memo, CG XIX Corps, to CG FUSA, 26 
Sep 44, XIX Corps Combat Interv file. 

9 FUSA, Amendment 1, 27. Sep 44, to FUSA 
Ltr of Instrs, 25 Sep 44, FUSA G-2 Jnl file, 
1-3 Oct 44; Sylvan Diary, entry of 26 Sep 44. 




MAP 3 



D Holmes, Jr. 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



235 



by the VII Corps would produce a 
breakthrough toward the Rhine that he 
seriously considered the possibility that 
the 7th Armored Division's operation west 
of the Maas might prove - unnecessary. 
Not to be caught unawares should this 
develop, he directed that the 7th Armored 
Division be prepared to jump the Maas 
and drive eastward or southeastward to 
complement any breakthrough achieved 
by the bulk of the XIX Corps. 10 

Bowing to his superior's direction, Gen- 
eral Corlett issued final orders for the 
Peel Marshes offensive on 28 September. 
The 7th Armored Division was to pass 
through the British zone to positions north 
of the Peel Marshes and attack southeast 
and south through Overloon and Venray 
to clear the west bank of the Maas. 
Because the British had not occupied all 
their zone within the new boundary, the 
first five miles of the 7th Armored Divi- 
sion's route of attack lay within the 
British zone. The 1st Belgian Brigade 
was to attack northeast across the Neder- 
weert-Wessem Canal early on 29 Sep- 
tember, eventually to link with the 7th 
Armored Division. The Belgians were to 
deny crossings of the Maas in the vicinity 
of Roermond, six miles northeast of 
Wessem, and were to regulate their ad- 
vance with that of the 1 1 3th Cavalry 
Group attacking north toward Roermond 
from the vicinity of Sittard along the east 
bank of the Maas. This move by the 
cavalry would tend to soften the angle of 
a gap which still would remain on the left 
flank of the XIX Corps east of the Maas 
even after completion of the Peel Marshes 
offensive. 11 



10 FUSA Ltr of Instrs, 25 Sep 44; Ltr Corlett 
to OCMH, 20 May 56. 

11 XIX Corps FO 27, 28 Sep, and Ltr of Instrs, 
29 Sep, XIX Corps G-3 file, 28-29 Sep 44. 



To the detriment of the Peel Marshes 
operation, the plan to clear the thumb- 
shaped corridor from the north instead of 
from the south and with but one instead 
of two available divisions reflected an 
erroneous impression of the dispositions 
and strength of German forces in the 
corridor. Usually prescient in these mat- 
ters, the XIX Corps G—2, Col. Washing- 
ton Piatt, had erred notably in this 
instance in his estimate of the enemy. 
Perhaps the error resulted from the fact 
that the XIX Corps had so recently taken 
over the corridor; perhaps the fact that 
the British who had heretofore borne 
responsibility for the corridor had had 
little enemy contact upon which to base 
accurate intelligence information. In any 
event, Colonel Piatt estimated that within 
the corridor the Germans had only about 
2,000 to 3,000 troops. 12 

In reality, the Germans occupying the 
thumb-shaped corridor were at least 
seven to eight times stronger than Colonel 
Piatt estimated. Just as in the other 
sectors of the First Parachute Army, the 
enemy here had increased greatly in 
strength and ability since General Student 
first had assumed command of the army 
three weeks before. Within the corridor 
itself, General Student had the bulk of an 
entire corps, General von Obstfelder's 
LXXXVI Corps. 

On 18 September the LXXXVI Corps 
had assumed command of Colonel 



1 2 See XIX Corps G-2 Per Rpts for the period 
and Maj Franklin Ferriss, Notes on XIX Corps 
Opns, 28 Jul 44-13 Jan 45, in particular entries 
for 26 through 28 Sep 44. A combat historian 
attached to the XIX Corps, Major Ferriss kept a 
detailed record of XIX Corps operations, field 
orders, and the like, and of his own observations. 
Filed with XIX Corps Combat Intervs. 



236 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Landau's i?6th Division and Parachute 
Training Division Erdmann, the latter the 
division which General Student early in 
September had formed around a nucleus 
of three parachute regiments. After an 
initial commitment against the Market- 
Garden salient at Veghel, Obstfelder had 
gone on the defensive against the 8 British 
Corps, which had driven northward along 
the right flank of the Market-Garden 
corridor. As September drew to a close, 
the LXXXVI Corps still was defending 
along the east wing of the First Parachute 
Army. The 176th Division was east of 
the Maas near Sittard but would be 
drawn into the battle of the corridor 
because of the 1 1 3th Cavalry Group's 
northward attack toward Roermond. Al- 
though the 176th Division had been buf- 
feted unmercifully in the 2d U.S. Armored 
Division's mid-September drive toward the 
German border, General von Obstfelder 
was able during the latter third of 
September to replenish the division with 
heterogeneous attachments. By the end 
of the month Colonel Landau was capable 
of a presentable defense against an attack 
in no greater strength than a cavalry 
group could muster. 

Sharing a boundary with the ijdth 
Division near the Maas, the Parachute 
Training Division Erdmann held the wid- 
est division sector within the LXXXVI 
Corps, a front some twenty-two miles 
long extending along the Nederweert- 
Wessem Canal northwestward to include 
about half the Peel Marshes. Had the 
Americans followed their original plan of 
attacking northeastward across the Neder- 
weert-Wessem Canal with two divisions, 
they would have encountered in Division 
Erdmann a unit of creditable strength 
and fighting ability but also a unit hardly 
capable in view of this elongated front of 



holding the attack of two U.S. divisions. 13 
Had these been the only two German 
forces available, the choice of attacking 
along the narrow neck of land between 
the Peel Marshes and the Maas might 
have been a happy one. As it was, 
General von Obstfelder received two ad- 
ditional units only a few days before the 
Americans were to jump off. The first 
was an upgraded training division of 
doubtful ability, the 180th Replacement 
Training Division. This division assumed 
responsibility for the northern half of the 
easily defensible Peel Marshes north of 
and adjacent to Division Erdmann. The 
second unit was Kampfgruppe Walther, 
the combat team of varying composition 
which first had opposed the British in the 
bridgehead over the Meuse-Escaut Canal 
and subsequently had cut the Market- 
Garden corridor north of Veghel. Hav- 
ing failed to maintain severance of the 
corridor, Kampfgruppe Walther had been 
pulled back into the LXXXVI Corps 
sector and reinforced with a strong 
complement of infantry from the 180th 
Division. The major component still was 
the iojth Panzer Brigade, which even 
after fighting against the Market- 
Garden salient had approximately seven 
Mark IV tanks and twenty Mark Vs. 
Though Kampfgruppe Walther probably 
was no stronger than a reinforced U.S. 
regiment, it was a force to be reckoned 
with in constricted terrain. 14 



13 Dispositions of German units are from 
TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 1330, 29 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. See Heichler, 
The Germans Opposite XIX Corps. 

14 Records of Kampfgruppe Walther are as 
sketchy for this as for earlier periods. The above 
is based on Strength Rpt, ioyth Panzer Brigade, 
1 Oct 44, in records of General Inspekteur der 
Panzertruppen, Strength Rpts of Panzer Divs, 
Sep-Oct 44; TWX A Gp B to OB WEST, 1330, 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



237 



Although the mission of the LXXXVI 
Corps was purely defensive, General von 
Obstfelder had specific orders to halt the 
Allies as far to the west as possible. That 
the point of decision in this defense might 
come at the exact spot the Americans had 
chosen for the main effort of their corridor 
campaign was indicated five days before 
the event by the Army Group B com- 
mander. "It is particularly important," 
Field Marshal Model said, "to hold the 
areas around Oploo and Deurne . . . ." 15 
Deurne was but a few miles southwest 
of the spot chosen for the 7 th Armored 
Division's attack. Oploo was to be the 
point of departure for the attack. 

But these things the Americans did not 
know. Still under the impression that 
only about 3,000 Germans held the entire 
thumb-shaped corridor, the 7 th Armored 
Division moved early on 29 September to 
pass through the British zone and reach 
jump-off positions near Oploo. At the 
same time, both the 1st Belgian Brigade 
and the 113th Cavalry Group began to 
attack along the south of the corridor 
toward Roermond. 

Before crossing the Nederweert-Wessem 
Canal, the 1st Belgian Brigade had to 
reduce a triangular "bridgehead" which 
Division Erdmann had clung to about the 
town of Wessem near the juncture of the 
canal with the Maas. But even this the 
lightly manned, lightly armed Belgians 
could not accomplish. Although strength- 
ened by attachment of a U.S. tank 
destroyer group, the Belgians could make 
little headway across flat terrain toward 
the canal. By 2 October revised estimates 
of enemy strength in Wessem and beyond 

29 Sep 44; and XIX Corps intel rpts for the 
period. 

15 Order, A Gp B to First Prcht Army, 1330, 
24 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle. 



the canal were so discouraging that the 
attack was called off. 16 

The 1 1 3th Cavalry Group's coincident 
attack developed in a series of piecemeal 
commitments, primarily because one 
squadron was late in arriving after per- 
forming screening duties along the XIX 
Corps south flank. By 4 October, two 
days after operations of the adjacent 
Belgian brigade had bogged down, a spe- 
cial task force had cleared a strip of land 
lying between the Maas and the Juliana 
Canal to a point a few miles beyond the 
interarmy group boundary; an attached 
tank battalion (the 744th) had built up 
along a line running northwest from 
Sittard to the point on the Juliana reached 
by the special task force; and other 
contingents of the cavalry and the armor 
clung precariously to a scanty bridgehead 
across the Saeffeler Creek a few miles 
northeast of Sittard. Assisted by numer- 
ous small streams and drainage ditches, 
the enemy's ij6th Division had offered 
stout resistance all along the line, particu- 
larly in the bridgehead beyond the 
Saeffeler. The cavalry lost heavily in 
men and vehicles. Because the group had 
"exhausted the possibilities of successful 
offensive action" with the forces available, 
the commander, Colonel Biddle, asked to 
call off the attack. With its cessation, 
all hope that the main effort by the 7th 
Armored Division in the north might 
benefit from operations in the south came 
to an end. 17 

In the meantime, on 30 September, the 
7th Armored Division under Maj. Gen. 

16 For tactical information on the 1st Belgian 
Brigade, see XIX Corps G-3 Per Rpts 1 1 5 and 
116, 29-30 Sep 44; XIX Corps G-3 Msg files, 
29-30 Sep 44; XIX Corps AAR, Oct 44; and 
Mampuys, Narrative History.- 

17 See 113 th Cav Gp AARs, Sep and Oct 44, 
and 29th Div AAR, Oct 44. 



238 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Lindsay McD. Silvester had reached 
jump-off positions southeast of Oploo and 
was prepared to launch the main drive 
aimed at clearing the west bank of the 
Maas. 18 Having rushed north straight 
out of the battle line along the Moselle 
River near Metz, General Silvester had 
found little time in which to reorganize 
his troops and replace combat losses. 
Casualties in the Metz fighting, the divi- 
sion's first all-out engagement, had been 
heavy; and in seeking to get the best 
from his units, General Silvester had re- 
placed a number of staff officers and 
subordinate commanders. Including of- 
ficers killed or wounded as well as those 
summarily relieved, CCB now had its 
fourth commander in a month; CCR, its 
eighth. 

Immediate objectives of the 7th Ar- 
mored Division were the towns of Vortum, 
close along the Maas, and Overloon, near 
the northeastern edge of the Peel Marshes. 
Hoping to break the main crust of re- 
sistance at these points, General Silvester 
intended then to sweep quickly south and 
bypass expected centers of resistance like 
Venray and Venlo. At these two points 
and at Roermond, which was to be taken 
by the Belgians and 1 1 3th Cavalry, the 
Germans had concentrated the meager 
forces they had been able to muster for 
defense of the corridor. Or so General 
Silvester had been informed by those who 
predicted that the enemy had but two to 
three thousand troops in the corridor. 

Attacking in midafternoon of 30 Sep- 

18 The 7th Armored Division first saw combat 
after the opening of the pursuit phase with Third 
Army's XX Corps. Just before assignment to 
the XIX Corps, the division had helped establish 
a hotly contested bridgehead across the Moselle 
River south of Metz. The story of the Peel 
Marshes offensive is based on: div AARs, Jnls, 
and Jnl files for Sep-Oct 44. 



tember, the 7th Armored Division en- 
countered terrain that was low, flat, 
open, sometimes swampy, and dotted with 
patches of scrub pines and oaks. Moving 
on Vortum, a town blocking access to a 
highway paralleling the Maas on the 
division's left wing, a task force of CCB 
(Brig. Gen. Robert W. Hasbrouck) ran 
almost immediately into a strong German 
line replete with antitank guns, mines, 
panzerfausts, and infantry firmly en- 
trenched. Because drainage ditches and 
marshy ground confined the tanks to the 
roads and because the roads were thickly 
mined, the onus of the attack fell upon 
the dismounted armored infantry. For- 
tunately, the infantry could call upon an 
ally, the artillery. Although the 7th Ar- 
mored Division had only one 4.5-inch gun 
battalion attached to reinforce the fires 
of its organic artillery, General Silvester 
could gain additional support from or- 
ganic guns of a British armored division 
that was in the line farther north. Thus 
on 2 October seven British and American 
artillery battalions co-ordinated their fires 
to deliver 1,500 rounds in a sharp two- 
minute preparation that enabled the task 
force of CCB at last to push into Vortum. 
In the town itself, resistance was spotty; 
but as soon as the armor started south- 
east along the highway paralleling the 
Maas, once again the Germans stiffened. 

In th^ meantime, General Silvester was 
making his main effort against the road 
center of Overloon, southwest of Vortum. 
Col. Dwight A. Rosebaum's CCA at- 
tacked the village along secondary roads 
from the north. After pushing back 
German outposts, the armor early on 1 
October struck the main defenses. Here 
the main infantry components of Kampf- 
gruppe Walther were bolstered by rem- 
nants of a parachute regiment which had 



THE PEEL MARSHES 




Using a Drainage Ditch for Cover, an infantryman carries a message forward in 
the Peel Marshes area. 



Resuming the attack at daybreak on the 
third day (2 October) behind a prepara- 
tion fired by seven battalions of artillery, 
the forces of the 7 th Armored Division 
attempting to invest Overloon still could 
not advance. Although the first air 
support of the operation hit the objective 
in early afternoon and reportedly resulted 
in destruction of a German tank, this 
failed to lessen German obstinacy ma- 
terially. An hour before dark, the enemy 
launched a counterattack, the 6rst in a 
seemingly interminable series that must 
have left the American soldier in his fox- 
hole or tank wondering just which side 
held the initiative. Fortunately none of 



fought with the Kampfgruppe against the 
Market-Garden salient. 19 Employing 
the tanks of the lojth Panzer Brigade 
primarily in antitank roles from concealed 
positions, the Kampfgruppe was able to 
cover its defensive mine fields with ac- 
curate fire that accounted for fourteen 
American tanks. 20 The American infan- 
try nevertheless gained several hundred 
yards to approach the outskirts of 
Overloon; here small arms and mortar 
fire supplemented by artillery and NebeU 
werfer fire forced a halt. 

1U 7th Armd Div G-2 Per Rpts, i-a Oct 44. 
-"Daily Sitrcp, A Gp B, 0145, 2 Oct 44, A 
Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 



240 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the counterattacks was in strength greater 
than two companies so that with the aid 
of supporting artillery and fighter- 
bombers, the men of CCA and CCB beat 
them off — but not without appreciable 
losses, particularly in tanks. 

Late on 3 October General Silvester 
relieved CCA with CCR (Col. John L. 
Ryan, Jr.). The counterattacks con- 
tinued. In the intervals, the Americans 
measured their advance in yards. Even 
though the combined efforts of CCA and 
CCR eventually forged an arc about 
Overloon on three sides, the Germans did 
not yield. 

By 5 October the 7 th Armored Division 
had been stopped undeniably. For a total 
advance of less than two miles from the 
line of departure, the division had paid 
with the loss of 29 medium tanks, 6 light 
tanks, 43 other vehicles, and an estimated 
452 men. These were not astronomical 
losses for an armored division in a six-day 
engagement, particularly in view of the 
kind of terrain over which the armor 
fought, yet they were, in light of the 
minor advances registered, a cause for 
concern. The 7th Armored Division in 
gaining little more than two miles failed 
even to get out of the British zone into 
the corridor it was supposed to clear. 

As early as the afternoon of 2 October, 
the date of the first of the German coun- 
terattacks that eventually were to force 
acceptance of the distasteful fact that the 
7th Armored Division alone could not 
clear the thumb-shaped corridor, General 
Corlett had irretrievably committed the 
main forces of the XIX Corps in an 
assault against the West Wall north of 
Aachen. Thus no reinforcements for the 
secondary effort in the north were avail- 
able. On 6 October General Hodges 
told General Corlett to call off the 7th 



Armored Division's attack. 21 

The 7th Armored Division could point 
to no real achievement in terms of clear- 
ing of the corridor. Had the division's 
mission been instead to create consterna- 
tion in German intelligence circles, Gen- 
eral Silvester certainly could have claimed 
at least an assist. Indeed, had this been 
the purpose of the Allied commanders at 
Versailles in adopting a boundary creating 
such a cumbersome corridor, someone 
could have taken credit for a coup de 
maitre. For the German G— 2's just 
could not conceive of such an unorthodox 
arrangement. 

The order of battle of the Second British 
and First U.S. Armies [the Army Group B 
G— 2 wrote on 2 October] at present is 
obscure in one significant point: We have 
not yet definitely determined whether the 
presence of 7th U.S. Armored Division op- 
posite the right wing of LXXXVI Corps 
indicates a shift of the British-American 
army group boundary to the area eight to 
ten miles south of Nijmegen. If this should 
be so . . . we would then have to expect 
that the enemy will stick to his original plan 
to launch the decisive thrust into the in- 
dustrial area (the Ruhr) from the area north 
of the Waal and Neder-Rijn [i.e., a projec- 
tion of the Market-Garden salient] ; a new, 
major airborne landing must be expected in 
conjunction with such an operation. 

In any event the enemy will continue his 
attacks to widen the present penetration 
area [the Market-Garden salient] in both 
directions .... 

The assumption that the front of the 
American army group has been lengthened 
by 40-50 miles is a contradiction of intelli- 
gence reports concerning strong concentra- 
tions of forces at Aachen; it appears 
questionable whether the enemy forces [in 
the vicinity of Aachen] are strong enough 
that, in addition to this main effort concentra- 



21 FUSA Ltr of Instrs, 6 Oct, in FUSA G-2 
file, 7-8 Oct 44; Sylvan Diary, entry of 6 Oct 44. 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



241 



tion, they can also take over a sector 
heretofore occupied by the British .... 

We must also consider the possibility that 
the intelligence reports concerning the in- 
tended offensive via Aachen toward Cologne 
were intentionally planted by the enemy, and 
that in contradiction to them, the Americans 
will shift their main effort to push north- 
eastward from the Sittard sector, and to roll 
up the Maas defense from the south . . . . 22 

On the date the Army Group B intelli- 
gence officer wrote this remarkable trea- 
tise, he was wrong in almost every respect. 
The interarmy group boundary had seen 
no genuine shift northward; on this very 
day of 2 October, U.S. forces in the 
Aachen sector had begun a drive designed 
to put the XIX Corps through the West 
Wall, a preliminary to resuming a major 
thrust from Aachen toward Cologne; and 
the British commander, Field Marshal 
Montgomery, had abandoned his intention 
of extending the Market-Garden salient 
northward in favor of a drive from 
Nijmegen southeastward against the west- 
ern face of the Ruhr. 

A few days later Montgomery had to 
go a step further and forego all plans for 
an immediate drive on the Ruhr. Indica- 
tions of enemy strength near Arnhem, 
British responsibilities in the opening of 
Antwerp, and the 7th Armored Division's 
experience with an unyielding enemy at 
Overloon — together these factors proved 
too overwhelming. 23 Except for operas 
tions to open Antwerp, about all Mont- 
gomery could do for the moment was to 
attempt to set the stage for a later drive 
on the Ruhr by eliminating once and for 
all this problem of German holdout west 
of the Maas. 



22 G-2 Rpt, A Gp B, 2 Oct 44, A Gp B KTB, 
Anlagen, Ic/AO.. 

23 Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, p. 257. 



In a conference on 8 October, the 
British commander and General Bradley 
agreed to readjust the army group boun- 
dary to its former position, thus returning 
the region of the Peel Marshes to the 
British. But the Americans still were to 
have a hand in clearing the sector. To 
General Dempsey's Second British Army 
General Bradley transferred the 7th 
Armored Division and the 1st Belgian 
Brigade, including American attachments. 
The complex situation whereby American 
units under American command had as- 
sumed responsibility for clearing a corridor 
running deep into the British zone was 
dissipated. Unfortunately, the problem 
of the Germans in this holdout position 
west of the Maas could be neither so 
readily nor so happily resolved. 

The British Attempt 

Upon transfer, General Silvester's 7th 
Armored Division came under the 8 
British Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. 
Sir Richard N. O'Connor. Relieving the 
armor in the Overloon sector with British 
units, General O'Connor directed General 
Silvester to take over an elongated, zigzag 
defensive sector within, west, and south of 
the Peel Marshes. The line ran from the 
vicinity of Deurne southeast along the 
Deurne Canal to Meijel, a town well 
within the confines of the Peel Marshes, 
then southwest along the Noorder Canal 
to Nederweert and southeast along the 
Nederweert-Wessem Canal to the Maas 
near Wessem. Though this front was 
some thirty miles long, defense would be 
facilitated by obstacles like the three 
canals and the limited routes of communi- 
cation through the marshes. In addition, 
General Silvester had the 1st Belgian 
Brigade as an attachment to hold approxi- 



242 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



mately nine miles of the line along the 
Nederweert-Wessem Canal and the Maas 
River. 

Seeing advance to the Maas as a pre- 
requisite to renewing a British thrust on 
the Ruhr, Field Marshal Montgomery 
directed an early offensive by O'Connor's 
8 Corps. Using an infantry division (the 
3d), General O'Connor was to seize the 
elusive objective of Overloon and push on 
to Venray, the largest town the Germans 
held in this sector and the most important 
road center. Coincidentally, the 7th U.S. 
Armored Division was to feign an attack 
eastward through the Peel Marshes from 
the vicinity of Deurne. Upon seizing 
Venray, General O'Connor hoped to 
shake loose a British armored division (the 
1 1 th ) to strike along the narrow neck 
between the marshes and the Maas south- 
eastward to Venlo while as yet unidenti- 
fied forces attacked northeastward to clear 
the southern part of the corridor from 
the vicinity of Nederweert. This offen- 
sive by the 8 Corps, Field Marshal 
Montgomery directed during the first week 
of October at a time before he had given 
unequivocal priority to the fight to open 
Antwerp. 24 

On 12 October infantry of General 
O'Connor's 8 Corps attacked Overloon 
and just before dark succeeded in entering 
the village. Renewing the attack the next 
day to cover three remaining miles to 
Venray, the British encountered dogged 
opposition like that the Americans had 
faced earlier: extensive mine fields, 
marshes, woods, antitank guns, Nebel- 

24 For the British story during this period, see 
Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, pp. 258, 
260-67, and 269-72. Unless otherwise noted, 
the 7th Armored Division story is based upon 
official unit records and Lt. Robert E. Merriam, 
Battle of the Canals, Ninth United States Army 
Operations, vol. Ill, Combat in Holland. 



werfer and artillery fire, and tanks cleverly 
employed in antitank roles. Not until 
five days later on 17 October did the 
British finally occupy Venray. 

Any plans General O'Connor might 
have had for exploiting the capture of 
Venray had been negated even before his 
troops took the town. For on 16 Octo- 
ber, a day before occupation of Venray, 
Field Marshal Montgomery had issued his 
directive shutting down all offensive opera- 
tions in the Second Army other than 
those designed to assist the opening of 
Antwerp. Completion of the task of 
clearing the west bank of the Maas had 
to await termination of the battle of the 
Schelde. 

A Spoiling Attack 

For ten days following postponement of 
British plans to clear the corridor west of 
the Maas, activity throughout the sector 
was confined to patrol and artillery war- 
fare, except for a small incursion by the 
7th Armored Division's CCB during 19- 
22 October across the Deurne Canal along 
a railway running east from Deurne. 
Not until Field Marshal Montgomery 
could complete the onerous tasks on his 
left wing could he again turn attention to 
this annoying holdout position. In the 
meantime, the First U.S. Army became 
heavily engaged in reorganization around 
Aachen in preparation for a new attempt 
to reach the Rhine. 

Where the Allies had to be content to 
file this region for future consideration, 
the Germans did not. Behind the facade 
of patrol clashes and artillery duels, Ger- 
man commanders hit upon a plan de- 
signed to exploit their holdout position to 
the fullest. In casting about for a way to 
assist the Fifteenth Army, which was 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



243 



incurring Allied wrath along the Schelde 
and in southwestern Holland, the Army 
Group B commander, Field Marshal 
Model, suggested a powerful, raidlike 
armored attack from the Peel Marshes 
into the east flank of the Market- 
Garden salient. If strong enough, this 
kind of attack might force the British to 
call off their efforts in the southwestern 
part of the Netherlands. 25 

The forces required for this maneuver 
happened to be available. A week before 
Model broached his idea to the Com- 
mander in Chief West, Rundstedt, head- 
quarters of the XLVII Panzer Corps 
under General von Luettwitz (former 2d 
Panzer Division commander) had been 
disengaged from the front of Army Group 
G, whose forces sat astride the boundary 
between the 12th and 6th U.S. Army 
Groups. The corps had moved north to 
a position behind the left wing of the 
First Parachute Army, there to conduct 
training and rehabilitation of the gth 
Panzer and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sions and to constitute a reserve for Army 
Group B. 2& 

By the latter part of October, strength 
of the two divisions under the XLVII 
Panzer Corps was not inconsiderable. 
Numbering about 1 1 ,000 men, the gth 
Panzer Division had at least 22 Panther 
tanks, 30 105-mm. and 150-mm. howit- 
zers, and some 178 armored vehicles of 
various types, probably including self- 
propelled artillery. The 15th Panzer 
Grenadier Division numbered close to 



25 Tel Conv, OB WEST to A Gp B, 1230, 24 
Oct 44, OB WEST KTB, Anlagen, Befehle und 
Meldungen, 21 .X-31 .X.44 (hereafter cited as 
OB WEST KTB, Befehle und Meldungen). 

20 MS # B-367, Das XLVII Panzer-Korps im 
Rheinland, 23 Qct-5 Dec 44 (Luettwitz). 



13,000 men and had at least 1 Mark II 
and 6 Mark IV tanks. 27 

Endorsing the Army Group B com- 
mander's plan, Rundstedt ordered that the 
XLVII Panzer Corps attack on 27 Octo- 
ber with the gth Panzer Division and 
attachments from the 15th Panzer Grena- 
dier Division, whereupon the rest of the 
panzer grenadiers were to exploit early 
gains of the armor. The attack was to 
strike sparsely manned positions of the 
7th U.S. Armored Division along the 
Deurne Canal and the Noorder Canal 
deep within the Peel Marshes west of 
Venlo. The center of the thrust was to 
be the town of Meijel, near the junction 
of the two canals. Only a limited objec- 
tive was assigned: to carve a quadrilateral 
bulge into Allied lines six miles deep, 
encompassing about forty-five square 
miles. The deepest point of penetration 
was to be at Asten, northwest of Meijel 
alongside the Bois le Due Canal. 28 

At 0615 on 27 October, after a week of 
bad weather that had reduced visibility 
almost to zero, the dormant sector within 
the Peel Marshes erupted in a forty- 
minute artillery preparation. The attack 
that followed came as a "complete sur- 
prise." As intelligence officers later were 
to note, the only prior evidence of German 
intentions had come the day before when 

27 Establishing the strength of these divisions is 
difficult. Figures given are for 1 November 1944, 
after five days of combat in the Peel Marshes, 
and do not indicate either losses or reinforce- 
ments during that period. See Strength Rpt, 
gth Pz Div, 1 Nov 44, General Inspekteur der 
Panzertruppen (OKH), Zustandsberichte-Pan- 
zerdivisionen, Nov-Dec 44. Allied estimates of 
German tank strength in the spoiling attack 
ranged from thirty to fifty. See also Lucian 
Heichler, Surprise Attack in the Peel Marshes, 
a MS prepared to complement this volume and 
filed in OCMH. 

28 Rpt, OB WEST to OKW/WFSt, 2200, 25 
Oct 44, OB WEST KTB, Befehle und Meldungen. 



244 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



observers had detected about 200 infantry 
marching westward at a distance of 
several miles from the front and the night 
before when outposts had reported the 
noise of vehicles and a few tanks moving 
about. 29 Although no relationship be- 
tween this attack and the enemy's 
December counteroffensive in the Ar- 
dennes could be claimed, the former when 
subjected to hindsight looked in many 
respects like a small-scale dress rehearsal 
for the Ardennes. 

The commander of the gth Panzer Di- 
vision, Generalmajor Harald Freiherr von 
Elverfeldt, made his first stab a two- 
pronged thrust at Meijel, held only by a 
troop of the 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Squadron. Forced from their positions, 
the cavalrymen rallied and with the help 
of another troop of cavalry counterat- 
tacked. But to no avail. 

A few miles to the north along the 
Meijel-Deurne highway at Heitrak an- 
other armored thrust across the Deurne 
Canal broke the position of another troop 
of cavalrymen. Reacting quickly the 7th 
Armored Division commander, General 
Silvester, got reinforcements of CCR onto 
the Meijel-Deurne highway to deny 
further advance for the moment in the 
direction of Deurne; but another highway 
leading northwest from Meijel out of the 
marshes to Asten still was open. Farther 
southwest, near Nederweert, another Ger- 
man push forced a slight withdrawal by 
another cavalry unit; but here commit- 
ment of tank, infantry, and tank destroyer 
reinforcements from CCA stabilized the 
situation by nightfall of the first day. 

Seeking to bolster the 7th Armored 

29 See Annex 2 (Miscellaneous Information — 
Recent German Attacks) to XIII Corps G-2 Per 
Rpt, 16 Nov 44, citing XIX Corps, 13 Nov 44, 
found in XIII Corps G-3 Jnl file, 14-17 Nov 44. 



Division by shortening the division's 
elongated front, the British corps com- 
mander, General O'Connor, sent con- 
tingents of a British armored division to 
relieve CCB in the bridgehead the 
Americans had won earlier beyond the 
Deurne Canal along a railroad that tra- 
verses the marshes. This relief accom- 
plished not long after nightfall on 27 
October, General Silvester had a reserve 
for countering the German threat. He 
promptly ordered the CCB commander, 
General Hasbrouck, to counterattack the 
next morning. 

Early on 28 October, General Silvester 
aimed two counterattacks at Meijel along 
the two highways leading to the town. 
A task force of CCR under Lt. Col. 
Richard D. Chappuis drove southeast 
along the Asten-Meijel road, while Gen- 
eral Hasbrouck's CCB pushed southeast 
along the Deurne-Meijel highway. One 
column of CCB branched off to the east 
along a secondary road in an effort to 
recapture a bridge the Germans had used 
in their thrust across the Deurne Canal 
to Heitrak. 

During the night, the Americans soon 
discovered, the gth Panzer Division'?, Re- 
connaissance Battalion had pushed several 
miles northwest from Meijel up the road 
toward Asten, and along the Deurne 
highway the Germans had consolidated 
their forces about Heitrak. At Heitrak, 
the XLVII Panzer Corps commander, 
Luettwitz, had thrown in the 15th Panzer 
Grenadier Division while shifting the en- 
tire gth Panzer Division to the center and 
south of the zone of penetration near 
Nederweert and toward Asten. 30 In the 
face of these developments and marshy 
terrain that denied maneuver off the roads, 

30 Rpt, OB WEST to OKW, 27 Oct 44, OB 
WEST KTB, Befehle und Meldungen. 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



245 



none of the 7th Armored Division's coun- 
terthrusts made much headway. 

Early on the third day, 29 October, the 
Germans renewed the attack. A strong 
thrust drove Colonel Chappuis' task force 
back almost half the distance to Asten 
before concentrated artillery fire forced 
the enemy to halt. Two other thrusts, 
one aimed northwest from Heitrak toward 
Deurne, the second along the secondary 
road from the east, forced both columns 
of General Hasbrouck's CCB to fall back 
about half the distance from Meijel to 
Deurne. Trying desperately to make a 
stand at the village of Liesel, the combat 
command eventually had to abandon that 
position as well. The loss of Liesel was 
particularly disturbing, for it opened two 
more roads to serve the Germans. One 
of these led west to Asten. If the Ger- 
mans launched a quick thrust on Asten, 
they might cut off Colonel Chappuis' 
task force of CCR southeast of that 
village. 

From the German viewpoint, capture of 
Liesel had another connotation. This vil- 
lage was the 15th Panzer Grenadier Di- 
vision's farthest assigned objective along 
the Meijel-Deurne highway; its capture 
emphasized the rapid success the spoiling 
attack had attained. Perhaps equaling 
or surpassing Allied surprise upon the 
opening of the enemy's drive was German 
surprise at the speed and extent of their 
own gains. So impressed was Field Mar- 
shal Model that he saw visions of turning 
what had been conceived as a large-scale 
raid into something bigger. As early as 
28 October, the second day of the attack, 
Model had asked Rundstedt at OB WEST 
to reinforce the XLVII Panzer Corps 
immediately with the 11 6th Panzer Divi- 
sion and the 388th Volks Artillery Corps. 91 
™ 3T OB WEST KTB, 28 Oct 44. 



The latter was no minor force: it con- 
trolled six artillery battalions totaling 87 
pieces ranging in caliber from 75-mm. 
guns to 210-mm. howitzers. 32 

This tract of marshland might have 
seen major German commitments had it 
not been for two related factors. First, 
neither the 116th Panzer Division nor the 
388th Volks Artillery Corps was readily 
at hand. Second, before either could be 
committed, soberer heads than was 
Model's at this time had appraised the 
situation. On 28 October, they noted, 
the 7th Armored Division's counterattacks 
virtually had tied the Germans to their 
first day's gains while "droves"' of Allied 
aircraft attacked delicate German commu- 
nications lines through the Peel Marshes. 
On 29 October, for all the success at 
Liesel and along the Asten road, the 
Americans had resisted stubbornly. The 
Germans had lost up to thirty tanks. 
Furthermore, noted the OB WEST G-2, 
no indications existed to show that the 
attack had drawn any Allied strength 
from the attacks against the Fifteenth 
Army in the southwestern part of the 
Netherlands. 33 

Perceiving that gains thus far were 
ephemeral, Field Marshal von Rundstedt 
called a halt. "Continuation of the 
XLVII Panzer Corps attack no longer 
promises any results worth the employment 
of the forces committed," Rundstedt said, 
"On the contrary, there is great danger 
that gth and ifjth Panzer Divisions [sic] 
will suffer personnel and materiel losses 
which cannot be replaced in the 



32 Rpt, OB WEST to A Gp B, 25 Oct 44, OB 
WEST KTB, Befehle und Meldungen. 

33 Annex 2 to XIII Corps G-2 Per Rpt, 16 
Nov 44; OB WEST KTB, 28 Oct 44, 



246 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



future. Hence the attack will be called 
off . . . ." 34 

Had Rundstedt waited a few more 
hours, he might have spotted an indication 
that the spoiling attack was accomplishing 
its purpose, that it was drawing Allied 
strength away from the Fifteenth Army. 
A British infantry division (the 15th) 
which had fought in southwestern Hol- 
land began relieving the 7 th Armored 
Division's CCB at Liesel and CCR south- 
east of Asten during the night of 29 
October. Noting the early identification 
of two fresh German divisions in the Peel 
Marshes, Field Marshal Montgomery him- 
self had intervened to transfer this 
infantry division. Yet removal of the 
division from the southwestern part of the 
Netherlands was, in reality, no real loss 
there, for the division already had com- 
pleted its role in the campaign south of 
the Maas. 

Upon arrival of this relief, the 8 Corps 
commander, General O'Connor, directed 
General Silvester to concentrate his 7 th 
Armored Division to the southwest about 
Nederweert and Weert. As soon as the 
situation at Meijel could be stabilized, 
the American armor was to attack north- 
east from Nederweert to restore the 
former line along the northwest bank of 
the Noorder Canal while British infantry 
swept the west bank of the Deurne Canal. 

Arrival of British infantry to block the 
highways to Asten and Deurne and intro- 
duction of substantial British artillery re- 
serves brought a sharp end to German 
advances from Meijel. For another day 
the Germans continued to try, for Field 
Marshal Model wrung a concession from 
Rundstedt to permit the attack to con- 
tinue in order to gain a better defensive 

34 Order, OB WEST to A Gp B, n 15, 29 Oct 
44, OB WEST KTB. 



line. 30 On two days the elusive Luftwaffe 
even attempted a minor comeback, but 
with little success. To strengthen the 
British position further, Field Marshal 
Montgomery shifted to the sector another 
British infantry division (the 53d) that 
had been pinched out of the battle south 
of the Maas. Though the German at- 
tack in the end had prompted transfer of 
two British divisions and artillery rein- 
forcement, it had failed to result in any 
diminution of other operations on the 21 
Army Group front. This the Germans 
failed to recognize when they belatedly — 
and wrongly — concluded that their attack 
had accomplished its original purpose. 36 

All three combat commands of General 
Silvester's American division were in the 
vicinity of Nederweert and Weert by 
nightfall of 30 October. The front had 
been stabilized both at Nederweert and 
near Meijel. The next day General 
O'Connor narrowed the 7th Armored 
Division's sector even more by bringing in 
a British armored brigade (the 4th) to 
strengthen the 1st Belgian Brigade along 
the Nederweert-Wessem Canal and by 
relieving the Belgians from attachment to 
the U.S. division. This left the 7th 
Armored Division responsible only for the 
Nederweert sector. 

While this adjustment was in process, 
General Bradley on 30 October came to 
the 7th Armored Division's headquarters 
and relieved General Silvester of his com- 
mand, replacing him with the CCB 
commander, General Hasbrouck. The re- 
lief, General Silvester believed, was based 
not on the Peel Marshes action but on 
personality conflicts and a misunderstand- 



35 Entry of 29 Oct 44, OB WEST KTB. 

36 Daily Sitrep, OB WEST to OKW, 30 Oct 
44, OB WEST KTB. 



THE PEEL MARSHES 



247 



ing of the armored division's performance 
in earlier engagements in France. Gen- 
eral Bradley wrote later that he had made 
the relief because he had "lost confidence 
in Silvester as a Division Commander." 37 
In the meantime, the Germans also 
were making adjustments. During the 
night of 30 October, the 15th Panzer 
Grenadier Division withdrew to return to 
its earlier status as Army Group B reserve. 
The gth Panzer Division disengaged dur- 
ing the first week of November. Also on 
30 October, headquarters of the Fifth 
Panzer Army (General der Panzertruppen 
Hasso von Manteuffel) assumed com- 
mand of the XLVII Panzer Corps, Gen- 
eral von Obstfelder's LXXXVI Corps, 
and Corps Feldt, the last the provisional 
corps that had opposed the 82d U.S. 
Airborne Division at Nijmegen. Thus 
the Germans carved a new army sector 
between the First Parachute and Seventh 
Armies. Command of the Fifteenth and 
First Parachute Armies was unified under 
Army Group Student, a provisional head- 
quarters which subsequently was to be 
upgraded to a third full-fledged army 
group. 38 

On the Allied side, plans for a co- 
ordinated drive by the British and Ameri- 
cans to clear the Nederweert-Meijel 
sector were changed on the first day of 
November when Field Marshal Montgom- 
ery foresaw an end to his campaign in the 
southwestern part of the Netherlands and 
decided to introduce his entire 12 Corps 
on the right flank of the 7th Armored 
Division along the Nederweert-Wessem 

37 Ltr, Bradley to Eisenhower, 2 Nov 44, copy 
in personal papers loaned by General Silvester; 
Ltr, Silvester to OCMH, 1 May 56; 7th Armd 
Div AAR, Oct-Nov 44. After the war an Army 
court of inquiry upheld General Bradley's action. 

38 See below, Ch. XVI. 



Canal. The 12 Corps then was to drive 
northeast through the thick of the enemv's 
holdout position west of the Maas to 
Venlo, a first step in British co-operation 
with a new American offensive aimed at 
reaching the Rhine. The 7th Armored 
Division now was to attack alone to clear 
the northwest bank of the Noorder Canal. 
Not until the armor neared Meijel were 
the British to launch their part in the 
attack to take the town. 

Though indications were that the 7 th 
Armored Division would meet only about 
a battalion of Germans on the northwest 
bank of the Noorder Canal, it was obvious 
that even an undermanned defender could 
prove tenacious in this kind of terrain. 
The attack had to move through a corri- 
dor only about two miles wide, bounded 
on the southeast by the Noorder Canal 
and on the northwest by De Groote Peel, 
one of the more impenetrable portions of 
the Peel Marshes. The armored division's 
effective strength in medium tanks at this 
time was down to 65 percent, but in any 
case the burden of the fight in this terrain 
would fall on the armored infantry. 

Directing a cautious advance at first, 
the new division commander, General 
Hasbrouck, changed to more aggressive 
tactics when resistance proved light. The 
principal difficulties came from boggy 
ground, mines, and German fire on the 
right flank from the eastern bank of the 
Noorder Canal. On 6 November, as the 
armored division neared its final objective 
just south of Meijel, the British north of 
that village began their attack southward. 
But the 7th Armored Division was not to 
be in on the kill. Late that day General 
Hasbrouck received orders for relief of his 
division and return to the 12th Army 
Group. The Americans had need of the 



248 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



division in a projected renewal of their 
offensive toward the Rhine. The relief 
occurred the next day, 7 November, 

With this change, the British delayed 
the final assault on Meijel to await ad- 
vance of the 12 Corps northeast from the 
Nederweert-Wessem Canal. The Ger- 
mans subsequently abandoned Meijel on 
16 November as the 12 Corps threatened 
their rear. The 8 Corps then drove 
southward from Venray while the 12 
Corps continued northeastward on Venlo. 
Not until 3 December, more than two 
months after the first optimistic attempt 
to clear the enemy from west of the Maas 
with a lone American division, did these 
two full corps finally erase the embar- 



rassment of the enemy's holdout. As the 
First U.S. Army had been discovering in 
the meantime in the Huertgen Forest 
southeast of Aachen, the Germans were 
great ones for wringing the utmost ad- 
vantage from difficult terrain. 

Elsewhere along the 21 Army Group 
front, the Canadians held their economical 
line along the south bank of the Maas and 
built up strength about Nijmegen, ready 
to help in Field Marshal Montgomery's 
Ruhr offensive. A British corps (the 
30th) prepared to assist a new American 
offensive by limited operations along the 
American left flank. This general situa- 
tion was to prevail on the 21 Army Group 
front until mid-December. 



Hotel Quellenhoff Farwick Park 

i Salvatorberg j Kurhaus 



PART THREE 
THE BATTLE OF AACHEN 



CHAPTER XI 

A Set Attack Against the West Wall 



The day that had seen the start of 
American activity in the region of the 
Peel Marshes — the day of 22 September — 
was the same day when the First Army 
commander, General Hodges,- had shut 
down almost all offensive operations on 
his front. The last troops withdrew from 
the Wallendorf bridgehead to mark the 
beginning of a lull in operations of the V 
Corps; except for a limited objective at- 
tack in the vicinity of the Monschau 
Corridor, the VII Corps quit trying to 
exploit the West Wall penetration south- 
east of Aachen; and the XIX Corps 
postponed its projected attack against the 
West Wall north of Aachen. A combina- 
tion of German military renascence, Ameri- 
can logistical problems, and a dispersion of 
forces had dictated a pause in First Army 
operations that was to last at least through 
the rest of September. 

First Army Readjusts the Front 

A major reason for the pause was the 
obvious fact that before renewing the 
drive to the Rhine the First Army had to 
gain greater concentration at critical 
points. Although few American com- 
manders at this time had any genuine 
respect for the tissue-thin formations the 
Germans had thrown in their way, none 
could deny that a push to the Rhine 
would have to be a new operation, pre- 
ceded by a penetration that could be 
vigorously exploited. 



To help General Hodges concentrate, 
General Bradley sought to reduce the 
width of the First Army front. Into the 
line in the Ardennes-Eifel along the First 
Army's right wing he directed the Ninth 
Army under Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson, 
which had recently concluded the cam- 
paign at Brest. 

Assuming responsibility for the old V 
Corps zone from the vicinity of St. Vith 
south to a new boundary with the Third 
Army near Echternach, the Ninth Army 
moved into the line during the days of 
transition from September to October. 
General Simpson had no alternative but to 
dig in and defend, for he was not strong 
enough either in men or supplies for an 
offensive. He had but one corps, Maj. 
Gen. Troy H. Middleton's VIII Corps, 
which had only two divisions. 

When the Ninth Army arrived, General 
Hodges began to regroup. The point 
where he sought concentration was that 
upon which the army had focused since 
the start of the campaign, the Aachen Gap. 

Having relinquished the bulk of the 
Ardennes-Eifel, General Hodges directed 
the V Corps to take over about fifteen 
miles of front from the south wing of the 
VII Corps in the Monschau-Elsenborn 
sector. He thereby reduced the VII 
Corps zone in the vicinity of Aachen from 
a width of about thirty-five miles to 
twenty. In the XIX Corps zone north of 
Aachen, Hodges made no change. Al- 
though the XIX Corps had incurred 



252 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



added responsibility in the thumb-shaped 
corridor west of the Maas, General Cor- 
lett's zone had been but sixteen miles wide 
originally, and he had received two new 
divisions (the 7th Armored and the 29th) 
to care for the added burden. 

Although the First Army in the process 
of realignment had gained two divisions, 
the army's expanded north flank would 
absorb at least one of these for an in- 
definite period. Thus the net increase for 
renewing the drive to the Rhine was but 
one division. The more noteworthy gain 
was in reduction of the army front from 
about a hundred miles to sixty. In effect- 
ing this reduction, General Hodges had 
relinquished some mileage on his south 
wing and acquired a lesser amount on his 
north wing, so that the army had in effect 
shifted northward. For this reason 
Hodges now changed the corps objectives: 
the XIX Corps from Cologne to Duessel- 
dorf, the VII Corps from Bonn to 
Cologne, and the V Corps from Koblenz 
to Bonn-Remagen. 1 

Even after realignment, General Hodges 
still was not ready to renew the offensive 
toward the Rhine. First he had to attend 
to four items of unfinished business. 

On his right wing, to provide a secure 
right flank for the Rhine offensive, General 
Hodges had to take high ground in the 
vicinity of the Monschau Corridor, a task 
that involved clearing the German- 
infested Huertgen Forest. Because the 
northward shift of the V Corps had 
enabled the gth Division of the VII Corps 
to concentrate opposite the forest, this job 
would fall for a second time to the gth 
Division. Another task was to capture 
Aachen. This was closely tied up with a 
third problem, putting the XIX Corps 

1 FUSA Ltr of Instrs, 25 Sep, FUSA G-2 Jnl 
file, 1-3 Oct 44. 



through the West Wall north of Aachen, 
for the XIX Corps had to get through the 
West Wall both to participate in a drive 
to the Rhine and to assist the VII Corps 
in encircling Aachen. The remaining re- 
sponsibility was that of clearing the Peel 
Marshes. 

The two most urgent tasks, clearing the 
thumb-shaped corridor and putting the 
XIX Corps through the West Wall, 
Hodges determined to undertake simul- 
taneously as soon as the two new divisions 
reached the XIX Corps. While the in- 
coming 7th Armored Division operated 
west of the Maas, the newly acquired 
29th Division was to hold that portion of 
the exposed north flank lying east of the 
Maas. The 30th Division then could 
attack without further delay to penetrate 
the West Wall north of Aachen, while the 
entire 2d Armored Division stood by to 
exploit the penetration. 

Planning the West Wall Assault 

It was no news to the men of the 30th 
Division that they would make the first set 
attack against the West Wall. Through 
successive postponements since reaching 
the German border on 18 September, 
these men had known that eventually 
they must come to grips with the fortifica- 
tions. From foxholes overlooking the 
little Wurm River, which marked the 
forward reaches of the enemy line in the 
sector between Aachen and Geilenkirchen, 
they had watched and waited. 

The new target date for the 30th Divi- 
sion's assault was 1 October. Except 
that not one combat command but the 
entire 2d Armored Division was available 
for exploitation, plans for the attack var- 
ied little from the original conception. As 
soon as the infantry could pierce the 



A SE T ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



253 



fortified line, the armor was to cross the 
Wurm, assume responsibility for holding 
the corps north flank east of the Wurm, 
and drive eastward to seize crossings of 
the Roer River, only nine miles away. 
The infantry, in the meantime, was to 
strike south to link with the VII Corps 
northeast of Aachen near the town of 
Wuerselen, thereby completing the encir- 
clement of Aachen. 

To assist the West Wall assault, the 
29th Division was to make limited objec- 
tive attacks along the corps north flank 
between Sittard and Geilenkirchen. At 
the same time the right wing regiment of 
the 30th Division, the 120th Infantry, was 
to be prepared to annihilate a re-entrant 
"bridgehead" the enemy had maintained 
outside the West Wall at Kerkrade and 
contain the enemy in the pillboxes and 
bunkers behind this "bridgehead." The 
other two regiments of the 30th Division 
were to make the assault upon the 
fortifications. 2 

The 30th Division commander, General 
Hobbs, had chosen to strike the West Wall 
on a narrow front little more than a mile 
wide along the Wurm nine miles north of 
Aachen and three miles southwest of 
Geilenkirchen near the villages of M arien- 



berg and Rimburg. (Map III) Gov- 
erning the choice was a desire to avoid 
stronger West Wall positions closer to 
Geilenkirchen and dense urban districts 
closer to Aachen. Whereas a rupture of 
the West Wall farther south might bring 
quicker juncture with the VII Corps, 
General Hobbs placed greater emphasis 
upon avoiding urban snares and upon 
picking a site served by good supply 
routes. That the enemy's fresh 183d 
Volks Grenadier Division had entered the 



line from Rimburg north toward Geilen- 
kirchen apparently had no appreciable 
influence on General Hobbs's selection of 
an assault site, possibly because the XIX 
Corps G-2, Colonel Piatt, deemed troops 
of this new division only "of a shade 
higher quality" than those of the 4gth 
and 2j$th Divisions, which the XIX Corps 
had manhandled from the Albert Canal to 
the German border. 3 

In the period of slightly less than a 
fortnight between the original target 
date and 1 October, the 30th Division 
launched preparations with a keen appre- 
ciation of the importance and difficulties 
of this first set attack against the West 
Wall. Playing an integral role in the 
preparations was the infantry's sister arm, 
the artillery. On 26 September the artil- 
lery was to begin a systematic attempt to 
knock out all pillboxes along the 30th 
Division front, 75 percent of which had 
been plotted by air and ground observers. 
Fires were to increase in intensity until D- 
Day. An impressive total of 26 artillery 
battalions eventually was to participate, 
including artillery of the 2d Armored, 
29th, and 30th Divisions, 4 artillery bat- 
talions attached to the 30th Division, 8 
battalions of XIX Corps artillery, and 3 
battalions of First Army artillery. 

A few hours before the attack, the 
artillery was to execute "blackout" mis- 
sions against enemy antiaircraft guns as 
protection for planes in a preliminary air 
bombardment. Then the artillery was to 
fire counterbattery and finally an inten- 
sive neutralization program in the specific 



2 XIX Corps FO 27, 28 Sep, XIX Corps G- 3 
file, 28-29 Sep 44. 



3 XIX Corps Special Rpt, Breaching the Sieg- 
fried Line, a narrative and convenient assimila- 
tion of relevant documents, filed with XIX Corps 
AAR, Oct 44; 30th Div G-2 Spot Estimate 11, 
30 Sep, and G-2 Per Rpt, 1 Oct, 30th Div G-3 
files, 1-2 Oct 44. 



254 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



assault zone, including a rolling barrage 
in front of the attacking infantry. 4 

Expecting originally to have heavy 
bomber support, planners for the air 
phase grandiloquently announced that the 
air strike would include the greatest con- 
centration of planes in close support of 
American ground troops since the "carpet" 
bombing along the St. L6-Periers road in 
Normandy. That had involved more 
than 3,300 planes, including more than a 
thousand heavy bombers. 5 

Because the 30th Division had been hit 
on two separate occasions when Allied 
bombs fell short in Normandy, few old- 
timers in the division could have felt much 
regret when heavy bombers proved un- 
available for the West Wall assault and 
participation by air forces proved less 
grandiose than originally conceived. As 
finally determined, the air bombardment 
was to approach the St. L6 bombing in 
neither bomb tonnage nor number of 
planes. Only 360 mediums (A-20 Hav- 
ocs and B-26 Marauders) of the IX 
Bombardment Division and 72 fighter- 
bombers (P - 38 Lightnings and P-47 
Thunderbolts) of the IX Tactical Air 
Command were to participate. 

Use of mediums rather than heavies 
nevertheless entailed minute planning by 
both air and ground units. Recalling 
with trepidation the holocaust along the 
St. L6-Periers road, officers of the 30th 
Division were seriously concerned about 
safety precautions. Their concern grew 
vociferous after 22 September when a 
flight of P-38's that already had begun a 
bomb run before cancellation of the West 

4 Annex 1 to XIX Corps FO 27. 

5 For an account of this action, see Martin 
Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Wash- 
ington, 1961). See also Bradley, A Soldier's 
Story, pp. 337-41, 346-49. 



Wall attack on that day dropped four 
napalm bombs within 30th Division lines. 
The bombs destroyed an ammunition 
dump and six vehicles, injured four men, 
and killed two. 6 

General Hobbs and his staff wanted the 
bomb run made over enemy territory 
parallel to the Wurm River and the divi- 
sion front in order to ensure that inad- 
vertent shorts would not strike friendly 
troops. Basing their judgment on prevail- 
ing wind conditions and a heavy belt of 
enemy flak, air officers wanted to make a 
perpendicular approach. As many men 
in the 30th Division remembered, insist- 
ence upon a perpendicular approach had 
contributed directly to the disaster in 
Normandy. One of three American di- 
visions hit, the 30th Division had lost to 
American bombs seventy-five men killed 
and 505 wounded. For the West Wall 
operation, General Hobbs was protesting 
the perpendicular approach almost until 
the very moment the planes appeared in 
the sky above his command post. 7 

Most commanders in the 30th Division 
also wanted to mark target areas with 
smoke, but on the theory that smoke 
might obscure the targets, air officers re- 
fused. It is possible that the airmen were 
concerned lest wind blow the smoke back 
on friendly lines and thus precipitate 
another short bombing. As finally deter- 
mined smoke was to be used only to mark 
targets for dive bombers. 8 

6 Msg, Hobbs to Corlett, 22 Sep, XIX Corps 
G— 3 file, 22 Sep 44. 

7 Note telephone conversations recorded in 
30th Div G-3 file, 1 Oct 44. A detailed expla- 
nation of the Air Force view in this instance may 
be found in Roswell King, Comments on the 
Medium Bombardment Effort to Support the 
30th Division, OCMH files. King was an air 
officer participating in this operation. 

8 Note Msgs 5, 6, and 7, 30th Div G-3 Jnl, 
1 Oct 44. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



255 



To initiate the attack, artillery units 
were to concentrate on antiaircraft black- 
out missions for twenty minutes before 
arrival of the first flights of medium 
bombers. The Havocs and Marauders 
were to saturate village road centers and 
logical locations for enemy command posts 
and reserves along the periphery of an arc 
approximately four miles Deyond the 
Wurm. The next flights of mediums 
were to carpet an oblong sector, beginning 
a thousand yards east of the Wurm and 
extending east two miles, in which lay 
numerous pillboxes and bunkers, a Ger- 
man cantonment, several villages, and all 
the first objectives of the two assault 
regiments. About an hour after the start 
of the mediums' strike, fighter-bombers 
using napalm were to pinpoint specific 
targets among the pillboxes for half an 
hour before H-Hour. Artillery was to 
continue to fire during the saturation 
bombing but as a safety precaution for 
the low-flying fighters was to cease during 
the dive bombing. Shelling was to re- 
commence at H-Hour as the foot troops 
crossed a line approximately a thousand 
yards west of the Wurm, a line represent- 
ing both the line of departure and the 
no-advance line during the bombing. 9 

While plans progressed for supporting 
the attack with planes and artillery, in- 
fantry, tank, and engineer units prepared 
for the ground phase. 

Patrols probing the front along the 
Wurm brought back information that ma- 
terially affected planning. One patrol, 
for example, revealed that mapmakers had 
dignified the Wurm in calling it a river, 



XIX Corps, Notes on Air Strike, 28 Sep, XIX 
Corps G-3 file, 28 Sep 44; 30th Div, Notes on 
Air Strike, 30th Div G— 3 file, 28-30 Sep 44; 30th 
Div, Revised Air Plan, Annex 2 to FO 42, 29 
Sep, XIX Corps G-3 file, 30 Sep 44. 



for in reality it is but 2 to 4 feet deep and 
15 to 18 feet wide. This prompted ac- 
ceptance of a plan to substitute duckboard 
footbridges for assault boats in the 
crossing. Another patrol discovered a 
concealed route of approach to the Wurm 
which a rifle company subsequently was 
to use to marked advantage. In at least 
two instances, patrols crept into the 
fortified belt to place demolitions in the 
firing apertures of pillboxes. These and 
other patrols determined that the Germans 
held no positions west of the Wurm other 
than outposts in Marienberg and Rim- 
burg and that east of the Wurm the 
enemy's forward outposts were usually a 
few hundred yards back from the river 
along a railroad. This railroad, the men 
reported, was an effective antitank ob- 
stacle. Through the length of the attack 
zone it ran a course of either deep cuts or 
high fills. 10 

While awaiting D Day, the regiments 
rotated their battalions in the line, so that 
all might undergo refresher training in 
fundamental tactics, in assault of pill- 
boxes, and in co-ordination with armor. 
No one could deny the need for this 
training: in one battalion, for example, 
only one man remained after four months 
of warfare who had any experience in 
operating a flame thrower. One regiment 
found a satisfactory training substitute for 
the Wurm in a stagnant stream; the other 
regiment had to call upon the power of 
imagination to create a river out of a 
rear-area road. Officers of the battalion 
which was to spearhead the 1 1 7 th In- 
fantry's assault improvised a sand table 



1 Extensive combat interviews supplement of- 
ficial records of the 30th Division and attached 
units for this period. See also XIX Corps 
Special Rpt, Breaching the Siegfried Line, and 
Ltr, Hobbs to OCMH, 26 Dec 53. 



256 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Practicing Flame Thrower Tech- 
nique for reducing pillboxes. 



and reconstructed the terrain to the regi- 
ment's front. From the sand table the 
two assault companies learned their re- 
spective roles in detail, while the reserve 
company memorized both roles in event of 
having to take over from cither of the 
other companies. Tankers and engineers 
constructed expedient bridges out of metal 
culverts encased in logs, bound together, 
and placed on a sled which a tank might 
pull to the river and a tank dozer shove 
into the stream, fn experiments con- 
ducted behind the lines, these expedients 
— which the men called "culverts" — 
worked satisfactorily. To supplement the 
culverts, the tankers planned to throw log 
mats into the stream to form a base for 
fords. 

Faced with a dual obstacle like the 
Wurm and the West Wall, the regimental 
commanders tried to avoid any complexity 



in their attack plans. Both chose a 
simple column-of -battalions formation. 
On the left (north), the 117th Infantry 
(Colonel Johnson) was to cross the Wurm 
just south of Marienberg to gain a foot- 
hold within a single band of pillboxes 
several hundred yards east of the railroad 
on the eastern slope of the Wurm valley. 
The line of pillboxes followed a road 
which runs from Palenberg, a coal-mining 
town just across the river from Marien- 
berg, south and southwest to Rim burg 
Castle, lying cast of the Wurm opposite 
Rimburg. Although other pillboxes in 
occasional clusters extended cast to give 
the West Wall in this sector a depth of 
about a mile and a half, seizure of the 
forward band would mean a rupture in 
the outer crust of the fortified belt. The 
slopes beyond the Wurm are gentle like 
those west of the river, affording the 
enemy little advantage in observation ex- 
cept that inherent to a defender over an 
attacker and that provided by slag piles 
east of Palenberg. 

With a foothold within the West Wall 
assured, the 117th Infantry was to fan out 
in two directions, northeast through the 
fringes of Palenberg to occupy high 
ground and anchor the northern flank of 
the bridgehead, and east through the 
town of Uebach to gently sloping high 
ground between Uebach and the village 
of Beggendorf. This eastward push was 
designed to sever a north-south highway 
that conceivably might serve the enemy as 
an artery of lateral communications. 

The i 19th Infantry (Colonel Suther- 
land) was in the meantime to have sent a 
battalion across the Wurm at Rimburg 
and through the first band of pillboxes to 
occupy a crossroads on the eastern crest 
of the valley just northwest of the village 
of Hcrbach. This would provide the 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



257 



regiment firm footing for subsequent at- 
tacks to expand the bridgehead toward 
the southeast in the direction the 30th 
Division eventually was to take in order 
to link with the VII Corps near Aachen. 

Of the two regimental assault sectors, 
the 1 1 9th Infantry's would prove the 
more difficult. Between the river and 
the railroad, the 1 1 9th Infantry had to 
traverse a wider space of flatland before 
reaching the railroad embankment. At 
the northern edge of this flatland, the 
Rimburg Castle, encircled by a moat, 
afforded the enemy a strong outpost posi- 
tion. The pillboxes themselves were more 
difficult to locate in the 119th Infantry's 
sector, because a dense woods 300 to 500 
yards deep concealed the defenses. To 
overcome these obstacles, the regimental 
commander, Colonel Sutherland, had to 
trust in the hope that the culverts tankers 
and engineers had developed would en- 
able tanks to cross the river soon after the 
assault began. But concern that soft, 
muddy ground in the Wurm valley might 
stop the tanks grew as the sun failed to 
break through rain clouds for twelve days 
preceding the target date. 

Few commanders failed to recognize the 
obvious fact that the delay in assaulting 
the West Wall afforded the Germans an 
opportunity to man their fortifications and 
procure reserves. On the other hand, the 
preparations by planes and artillery and 
the additional troops provided by avail- 
ability of the entire 2d Armored Division 
might offset this advantage. 

At the end of September General Cor- 
lett's G-2, Colonel Piatt, estimated that 
from Geilenkirchen south to the corps 
boundary near Aachen, the Germans were 
manning the line with seven battalions of 
about 450 men each. From Geilen- 
kirchen to Rimburg were two battalions 



of the 183d Volks Grenadier Division's 
330th Regiment. South from Rimburg, 
five battalions, Colonel Piatt calculated, 
were operating under the 4gth and 275th 
Divisions. He estimated that the Ger- 
mans had four battalions of light and 
medium artillery capable of firing into the 
30th Division's zone, plus a battery of 
210-mm. guns and one or two large cali- 
ber railroad guns. Observers had de- 
tected only an occasional tank in the 
vicinity. In the matter of reserves, Piatt 
predicted the Germans would have at 
least one battalion from each of three 
regiments of the 183d Division available 
for quick counterattacks, while the 11 6th 
Panzer Division and contingents of an 
infantry division recently identified near 
Aachen might be backing up the line. 11 

Except in one instance, Colonel Piatt 
was basically correct in his estimate of 
the enemy. That error was his failure to 
note that upon arrival of the 183d Volks 
Grenadier Division, the new LXXX1 
Corps commander, General Koechling, 
who had replaced General Schack, had 
pulled the 275th Division from the line 
and transferred it to the corps south 
wing in the Huertgen Forest. 12 Colonel 
Piatt was particularly prescient in his 
estimate of enemy artillery, for between 
them the 4Qth and 183d Divisions had, as 
Piatt predicted, four battalions. Two 
railroad guns, which the XIX Corps G-2 
had noted might be present, were in the 
vicinity. 13 

From Rimburg south to a point three 
miles north of Aachen, the troops con- 

11 30th Div G-2 Spot Estimate n, 30 Sep 44, 
and G-2 Rpt, 1 Oct 44. 

12 Daily Sitrep, LXXXI Corps, 22 Sep 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

13 Details of enemy strength and organization 
may be found in Heichler, The Germans Opposite 
XIX Corps. 



258 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



trolled by General Macholz's 4gth Divi- 
sion were organized around the same two 
regimental formations (148th and i4gth 
Regiments) which had fallen back before 
the XIX Corps from the Albert Canal to 
the border. In the interim, such changes 
had occurred among personnel that the 
division was hardly the same as the one 
that had breathed a sigh of relief upon 
gaining the West Wall. In a period of 
slightly more than a fortnight, General 
Macholz had absorbed 4,326 "replace- 
ments" in the form of a hodgepodge of 
miscellaneous units. A tabulation of the 
units this division assimilated during the 
period would indicate to a degree the 
problem General Macholz and other Ger- 
man commanders all along the Western 
Front faced in creating a cohesive fighting 
force. Among the miscellany General 
Macholz received were 2 Landesschuetzen 
battalions, 2 "straggler" battalions, 3 
machine-gun battalions, 2 separate in- 
fantry battalions (probably replacement 
training units) 4 "security" battalions, 
and 1 Alarm Company Aachen. 1 * 

American commanders, for their part, 
entertained no illusions that intentions of 
the XIX Corps were secret. Without a 
doubt, General Hobbs and General Cor- 
lett believed, the Germans were expecting 
an attack on the first clear day. Yet little 
could be done to deceive the enemy even 
as to the site of the attack, for the blow 
obviously was going to fall somewhere be- 
tween Aachen and Geilenkirchen. Gen- 
eral Hobbs nevertheless attempted some 
deception by spreading pre-D-Day artil- 
lery fires along the entire front, with 
emphasis on the sector opposite the 120th 
Infantry on the division south wing, and 

14 Heichler, in The Germans Opposite XIX 
Corps, gives strength figures and date of arrival 
of each of these units. 



by concentrating artillery units in the 
southern part of the division zone. Also, 
once the offensive began, pressure by the 
1 20th Infantry and the 29th Division on 
either flank might limit the forces the 
enemy could shift against the penetration. 

The Americans actually need not have 
concerned themselves with this problem, 
for German intelligence officers could not 
see the forest for the trees. So concerned 
were they with fear of a major American 
offensive on a broad front southeast of 
Aachen, with the Roer River towns of 
Dueren, Juelich, and Linnich as first ob- 
jectives, that they failed to accord any real 
importance to the preparations in the 
Geilenkirchen sector. The Germans even 
anticipated a possible large-scale Allied 
airborne operation between the Roer and 
the Rhine as a corollary of a new offensive. 

With these ideas in mind, the new 
LXXXI Corps commander, General 
Koechling, wrongly assumed that the First 
U.S. Army would make a strong bid 
northeastward through the Stolberg Corri- 
dor during the very first days of October, 
with a possible diversion at Geilenkirchen. 
As a consequence, General Koechling and 
his staff spent the latter days of September 
in feverish preparations to strengthen the 
sectors of the 246th and 12th Divisions at 
Aachen and southeast of Aachen. 15 

Apparently the only commander to 
question Koechling's opinion was the 
183d Division's General Lange; but he 
also guessed wrong. Cognizant of Amer- 
ican armor opposite his division, Lange 
expected a major attack aginst his sector. 
Yet he could not believe that the Ameri- 
cans would try to push armor across the 
Wurm at the point they actually had 

15 Rpt, Seventh Army to A Gp B, 30 Sep 44, 
A Gp B KTB, Operationsbefehle; MS # A-990 
(Koechling) ; OB WEST KTB, 30 Sep 44. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



259 



chosen because there the eastern slopes of 
the Wurm valley are higher and afford 
more commanding positions for antitank 
guns than do the slopes a few miles to the 
north at Geilenkirchen. He expected the 
blow to fall at Geilenkirchen in the very 
center of his division sector. 18 

Even the one correct German prediction 
that the offensive would begin during 
the first days of October was to be 
discredited before the attack actually be- 
gan. Noting on 29 September that Ameri- 
can air activity had reached such a 
fortissimo that all daylight troop and 
supply movements in the LXXXI Corps 
had to be shut down, the Germans at- 
tached undue importance to virtual ces- 
sation of air attacks during the next two 
days. In reality, this could be attributed 
only to unfavorable weather; but when 
combined with lessening of American ar- 
tillery fires, the Germans took it to mean 
that their earlier prediction had been 
wrong. Although General Koechling him- 
self was not fooled, the fact that he 
expected the attack on his southern wing 
southeast of Aachen deprived his opinion 
of importance. The division commanders 
immediately concerned, Generals Lange 
and Macholz, were thoroughly lulled. 17 

Although part of the decrease in Ameri- 
can artillery fires undoubtedly was caused 
by unfavorable weather limiting observa- 
tion, it may have been more directly 
attributable to two other factors. First, 
earlier hopes that First Army's logistical 
situation might be showing marked im- 
provement by this time . had faded ; Gen- 
eral Corlett now found he could not 
afford the expenditure of artillery ammu- 

16 MS #B- 753 (Lange). 

17 OB WEST KTB, 29 Sep 44; LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Tagesmeldungen, 30 Sep and 1 Oct 44; 
MS # B-792 (Macholz). 



nition he had planned. Indeed, on the 
very day of the West Wall attack General 
Bradley was to reinstitute rationing of 
artillery ammunition throughout the 12 th 
Army Group. Second, both Corlett and 
General Hobbs had been disappointed 
with the effect of the elaborate pre-D-Day 
artillery program. 

Other than to clear away camouflage, 
they discovered, most of the shelling had 
little effect on the pillboxes. Only self- 
propelled 155-mm. guns, often fired from 
exposed positions in order to engage the 
fortifications at close range, did any real 
damage, and then only after considerable 
expenditure of ammunition. 18 The firing 
did reveal some cleverly camouflaged pill- 
boxes not previously located. 19 This in 
itself was an advantage but hardly what 
the planners had hoped for and hardly 
enough to justify an elaborate program. 
As the target date of 1 October ap- 
proached, artillery units began to husband 
more and more ammunition for the assault. 

At dawn on the target date, General 
Corlett, General Hobbs, and the men who 
were to make the West Wall assault 
looked with chagrin at a mournful sky 
which brought showers and visibility so 
limited that virtually no hope remained 
for a preattack aerial bombardment. 
Though reluctant to postpone the attack 
again, General Corlett was even more 
reluctant to move without aerial support. 
Eventually he bowed to the weather. A 
subsequent downpour brought more con- 
cern to tankers and engineers whose first 

18 The 258th Field Artillery Battalion (SP 
155's) claimed penetrations in all forty-three 
pillboxes engaged during a seven-day period. 
See Ltr, Lt Col Bradford A. Butler, Jr., comdg 
258th FA Bn, to CG XIX Corps, 5 Oct 44, XIX 
Corps G— 3 file, 5-6 Oct 44. 

19 One unit reported: "Fired at haystack with 
machine gun. Shots bounced off." 



260 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



task was to get the tanks across the soft, 
muddy shoulders of the Wurm. 

As night came a forecast of improved 
weather conditions for the next day put 
the offensive back in motion. After re- 
ceiving an extra ration of cigarettes and 
chocolate during the night, few of the 
infantrymen had any doubt but that on 2 
October the oft-postponed attack at last 
would begin. They joked about fattening 
pigs for the kill. 

"Those infantrymen have guts!" 

At 0900 on 2 October, under a scat- 
tered overcast, the air strike began. Al- 
though the planes made a perpendicular 
approach across 30th Division lines, they 
dropped no shorts. They also overshot the 
targets. Five groups of mediums missed 
the target areas altogether, and the re- 
maining four groups dropped only a 
portion of their bombs accurately. An 
hour after the air strike began, the 117th 
Infantry commander, Colonel Johnson, re- 
ported that no bombs had fallen in front 
of his lines. Two of the groups of medi- 
ums were so late in arriving over the 
target that the low-flying dive bombers 
had to be cleared from the area to permit 
the mediums to drop their loads. One of 
these groups bombed on colored smoke 
markings which had been registered for the 
dive bombers in Palenberg and thereby 
produced the only results which ground 
observers could call "excellent." A note 
of tragedy entered the strike when one 
group of mediums bombed a town in 
Belgium, twenty-eight miles west of the 
assigned target, inflicting seventy-nine 
casualties upon Belgian civilians, includ- 
ing thirty-four killed. 20 

20 "-phis gross error," the IX Bombardment 
Division determined later, "was due to poor 



No one could blame the failure of the 
medium bombing on enemy action. The 
Luftwaffe showed no signs of renewed 
activity, and enemy flak was virtually 
nonexistent. 

The fighter-bombers were more ac- 
curate in that they operated precisely over 
the target area, but they hit not one 
pillbox. "We had heard stories about 
thousands of planes that were supposed to 
have come and destroyed the pillboxes," 
said one private, "but we only saw a few 
of them and the damage was slight." 
Although this soldier obviously had been 
led to expect too much, even more con- 
servative observers could discern no real 
benefit from the strike except that the 
bomb craters provided much-needed cov- 
er. Some napalm bombs hit field forti- 
fications in the northern part of the zone, 
and others landed accurately in the woods 
east of Rimburg opposite the 1 1 9th 
Infantry, but since the woods were wet, 
the burning oil failed to achieve the 
desired effect. As determined later by 
prisoner interrogations, psychological ef- 
fect on the Germans was negligible. 
Some prisoners said they slept through the 
bombardment. "What bombing?" one 
German wanted to know. 21 



navigation, poor headwork, and misidentification 
of target." History, IX Bombardment Division 
(M) Sep-Oct 44, and attached copy of Teletype, 
Gen Anderson (CG IX Bomb Div) to Gp and 
Wing Comdrs; see also Craven and Cate, eds., 
Europe: Argument to V-E Day, p. 615. 

21 The air strike was called Operation Cisco. 
The story of the strike and the following attack 
is based upon observations in combat interviews; 
Hewitt, Workhorse of the Western Front, p. 112; 
Msg, 30th Div G-3 to XIX Corps CG, 2 Oct, 
in 30th Div G-3 file, 2 Oct 44; XIX Corps 
AAR, Oct 44; 30th Div G-3 Jnl, 2 Oct 44; His- 
tory, IX Bombardment Division (M) ; Unit 
History, IX Fighter Comd and IX TAC, Oct 44; 
and Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: Argument 
to V-E Day, p. 615. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



261 



No matter what the shortcomings of 
the air strike, the XIX Corps now was 
irrevocably committed to the attack. 
There could be no turning back. 

As the infantrymen climbed from their 
foxholes and cellars to move toward the 
line of departure, more than 400 tubes of 
American artillery and mortars fired thun- 
derous salvos that searched out enemy 
batteries, assembly areas, and the forward 
line of pillboxes. Some VII Corps artil- 
lery joined the demonstration. Both 81- 
mm. and 60-mm. mortars participated. 
"Of course," said one platoon leader, "a 
60-mm. mortar shell would bounce off a 
pillbox like a peanut, but they caused the 
personnel in the firing trenches to duck 
inside." Chemical mortars concentrated 
at first on chewing paths through tactical 
wire beyond the Wurm, then shifted to a 
rolling barrage which started at the cross- 
ing areas and led the infantry by several 
hundred yards. Direct support battalions 
of 105-mm. howitzers contributed to this 
shifting curtain of fire. To make up for 
deficiencies of the air strike, artillery com- 
manders dug deep into ammunition stocks 
they had earmarked for use against coun- 
terattacks. Inadequately supported rifle- 
men could not successfully attack an 
obstacle like the West Wall, General 
Corlett reasoned; he would take his 
chances on getting more ammunition 
later. 22 At the end of twelve hours 
twenty-six supporting artillery battalions 
had fired a total of 18,696 rounds. 

At the line of departure, heavy machine 
gunners of the assault battalions delivered 
overhead fire against embrasures of the 
pillboxes. Because the machine gunners 
had to use tracer ammunition to regulate 



22 Ltrs, Corlett to OCMH, 2 Sep 53 and 20 
May 56. 



their firing, the Germans quickly spotted 
the guns. Losses were swift and heavy: 
Five of eight machine guns of the 1st 
Battalion, 117th Infantry, for example, 
were knocked out. 

Carrying the duckboards that were to 
provide dry paths across the river, the 
infantrymen raced down the west slope of 
the valley through soggy fields ridged with 
rows of stock beets and turnips. A mov- 
ing target, their leaders had told them 
again and again, is less easily hit than a 
stationary one. They operated now on 
that theory. 

At the river on the left of the crossing 
area, big 1st Lt. Don A. Borton of Com- 
pany B, 117th Infantry, seized one of the 
duckboards, waded into the water, and 
slapped it into place. "There's your god- 
damned bridge!" he cried. Men of his 
platoon sped forward. Throwing high 
their hands, eleven Germans who had 
occupied foxholes close along the river 
bank jumped up to surrender. In a mat- 
ter of minutes, the men of Company B 
had gained the protection of the railroad 
embankment. The forward platoons of 
this company had lost not a single man. 

Although similarly impressed with the 
need for speed, the 1 1 7th Infantry's Com- 
pany C was not so fortunate in crossing 
the open slopes to the river. A con- 
centration of hostile shells hit squarely 
among one of the forward platoons, killing 
or wounding all but 6 men. By the time 
Company C reached the river, heavy shell- 
ing and casualties obviously had broken 
the company's momentum. In less than 
an hour Company C had lost 87 men, 7 
of them killed. 

Faced with the possibility that his 
entire attack might flounder because of 
the misfortunes of this company, the bat- 
talion commander, Lt. Col. Robert E. 



262 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Frankland, quickly called on his reserve. 
Company A, he directed, was to cross the 
river on Company B's bridges and then 
assume the assault role of Company C. 
So thoroughly had the men of Company 
A learned the missions of the two assault 
companies that in less than half an hour 
they were building up along the railroad 
embankment beyond the river. 

In the meantime, those men of Com- 
pany B who had first reached the railroad 
fought a tendency to take cover behind 
the embankment. The alternative was 
none too pleasant, for open ground rising 
from the embankment to the line of pill- 
boxes along the Palenberg-Rimburg road 
was devoid of cover and concealment 
other than that provided by the corpses of 
several cows. Under the prodding of a 
platoon leader, ist Lt. Robert P. Cush- 
man, the men nevertheless recognized that 
they had to act at once while the rolling 
barrage and overhead machine gun fire 
kept the enemy pinned inside his fortifica- 
tions. Some later attributed Lieutenant 
Cushman's goading to the fact that ten 
minutes before the jump-off the lieutenant 
had received a telegram announcing the 
birth of a son. He was in a hurry, they 
said, to get the war over with. 

The action that followed gave proof of 
the value of the refresher training Com- 
pany B had undergone. As one part of 
each platoon took up support positions 
from which to fire into the embrasures of 
the pillboxes, specially organized assault 
detachments equipped with flame throw- 
ers and demolition charges pressed 
forward. Each man knew his job and 
did it. 

The courage of a volunteer flame 
thrower, Pvt. Brent Youenes, featured the 
taking of the first two pillboxes by Lieu- 
tenant Cushman's platoon. Advancing 



within ten yards of the first pillbox, 
Private Youenes squirted two bursts of 
flame into the front embrasure. The oc- 
cupants must have been cowering inside, 
for they fired not a shot. As soon as the 
flame dissipated, Pvt. Willis Jenkins 
shoved a pole charge into the same em- 
brasure. Still no fire came from the pill- 
box. When supporting riflemen stormed 
the position, five Germans filed out, shak- 
ing from their experience and muttering 
surrender. So co-ordinated and daring 
had been the performance that a member 
of Company B's weapons platoon, whose 
job was in itself so far forward that few 
soldiers envied it, could not suppress his 
admiration. "Those infantrymen have 
guts!" was the way he put it. 

Turning to the other pillbox, Lieuten- 
ant Cushman and his assault detachment 
received machine gun fire from a trench 
outside the pillbox. Quick return fire 
killed one of two Germans manning the 
machine gun; the other retreated inside. 
Creeping around to a blind side of the 
pillbox, three riflemen tossed hand gre- 
nades through the embrasures and down 
a ventilator shaft. Arriving with his 
flame thrower, Private Youenes squirted 
an embrasure while another man placed a 
pole charge against the entrance to the 
pillbox. Soon after the explosion, a Ger- 
man officer dashed out, brandishing a 
pistol. When his first shot killed one man 
of the assault detachment, someone yelled, 
"He killed Smitty! The son of a bitch, 
he killed Smitty!" Every man in sight 
turned his weapon on the enemy officer. 
Six Germans who had remained in the 
pillbox then surrendered. 

Turning to three other pillboxes, Lieu- 
tenant Cushman and his men found that 
concussion from mortars and artillery had 
so intimidated the occupants and that fire 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



263 



of the support detachment was so effective 
in keeping the enemy away from his firing 
embrasures that resistance came from 
none of them. The first pillbox fell to a 
pole charge placed once again by the 
intrepid Private Jenkins. Hand grenades 
thrown through firing slits brought sur- 
render of the other two. In less than two 
hours after crossing the line of departure, 
Lieutenant Cushman's platoon had taken 
five pillboxes with the loss of but one man. 

At the same time, Lieutenant Borton 
and his platoon were having similar 
experiences with two other pillboxes. Pvt. 
Harold Zeglien finished off the first with 
a pole charge set in an embrasure. The 
Germans in the second were not so easily 
subdued. Even after a pole charge had 
gone off against one of the embrasures, 
the enemy inside fired a machine gun to 
kill a bazooka man who was attempting to 
put a rocket through the entrance. 
Strangely, a change in tactics from force 
to intimidation at last did the trick. A 
prisoner captured earlier went inside the 
pillbox with word that if the Germans 
failed to surrender, they must face death 
from a flame thrower. Nine Germans 
filed out. 

Another pillbox earmarked for reduc- 
tion by Company B was the responsibility 
of the company's support platoon under 
T. Sgt. Howard Wolpert. Operating a 
flame thrower, Pvt. Henry E. Hansen had 
directed two blasts toward one embrasure 
and was moving to another side of the 
pillbox when he spotted a German lying in 
wait for him to appear from another 
direction. As the German whirled to face 
him, Private Hansen caught him full in 
the face with a blast from his flame 
thrower. When pole charges set by 
others of the platoon brought no response 
from inside the pillbox, Sergeant Wolpert 



and his men began to reorganize, secure 
in the belief that they had taken their 
objective. The fight over, Private Han- 
sen casually sprayed the embrasures of the 
pillbox again in order to empty his flame 
thrower and reduce its weight. Smoke 
began to seep from the embrasures, and 
small arms ammunition to explode inside 
the pillbox. A moment later ten Germans 
pushed open the door to surrender. 

Even as Company B was breaching the 
first band of West Wall pillboxes with the 
loss of but two men in actual assaults on 
the fortifications, Company A was follow- 
ing to take over the assault mission of 
Company C. Like the platoon leaders of 
Company B, the officers- of Company A 
found that the railroad embankment held 
an attraction for their men that could 
prove fatal. Already German mortar and 
artillerymen were turning the flatland 
between the river and the embankment 
into a maelstrom of bursting shells; in a 
matter of minutes the enemy's defensive 
fires might deny the route of approach 
from the embankment to the pillboxes. 
Using the theory that "you can't push a 
string, you gotta pull it," ist Lt. Theodore 
Foote signaled men of his platoon to 
follow and clambered across the embank- 
ment. In a ragged skirmish line, the men 
charged across an open field toward a 
pillbox beyond the Palenberg-Rimburg 
road. 

Directing his support detachment into 
position along the road, Lieutenant Foote 
and the assault detachment raced on 
toward the pillbox. Finding a bomb cra- 
ter almost in front of the pillbox, the men 
took cover while Pfc. Gus Pantazopulos 
fired two rockets from a bazooka against 
the closest embrasure and Pvt. Martin 
Sirokin dashed forward to place a pole 
charge in the hole the rockets made. Cpl. 



264 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Russell Martin pegged hand grenades into 
the enlarged embrasure as the rest of the 
assault detachment charged from the 
crater. The charge carried both the pill- 
box and a series of field fortifications 
nearby where a nest of Germans had been 
lying low during the fracas. By the time 
the rest of Company A arrived, nothing 
remained but to organize defensive posi- 
tions in the vicinity of the pillbox. 

Only a few steps behind Colonel Frank- 
land's ist Battalion, the 117th Infantry 
commander, Colonel Johnson, sent a com- 
pany of the 2d Battalion to clear enemy 
outposts from west of the river in the 
village of Marienberg. This done in less 
than two hours, despite delaying action by 
German riflemen and machine gunners, 
Colonel Johnson directed the company to 
cross the Wurm into the northern part of 
Palenberg while the remainder of the 
battalion crossed behind Colonel Frank- 
land's battalion in order to approach 
Palenberg from the south. 

Two pillboxes provided the crux of the 
opposition in Palenberg, but persistent 
small unit maneuver and daring use of 
bazookas and pole charges after the man- 
ner of Colonel Frankland's battalion 
eventually carried the strongpoints. By 
about 1600 the men had eliminated small 
arms fire from a permanent bridge site 
between Marienberg and Palenberg while 
others continued a house-to-house fight to 
eject the enemy from the rest of Palenberg. 
This fight often lapsed into hand grenade 
duels. One rifleman, Pvt. Harold G. 
Kiner, spotted an enemy grenade that 
landed between him and two fellow rifle- 
men, threw himself upon it, and saved his 
companions at the cost of his own life. 
He was posthumously awarded the Medal 
of Honor. 

Neither tanks nor tank destroyers be- 



came available to the 1 1 7th Infantry 
during the day, not because the culverts 
designed for bridging the stream failed to 
work but because the banks of the Wurm 
were such a quagmire that the tank dozer 
which was to shave down the banks mired 
deep in the mud. Tanks brought up to 
pull out the tank dozer also bogged down. 
The tankers finally gave up to await 
construction of a treadway bridge. 

Having worked under steady enemy 
shelling, the engineers at 1830 completed 
the treadway, but when the tanks crossed, 
the soil on the east bank proved too soft 
for maneuver. A short while later, when 
other engineers completed another tread- 
way between Marienberg and Palenberg, 
the tanks found firmer footing. Yet now 
they were too late to assist in the first day's 
fighting. 

Almost from the start, the 30th Divi- 
sion's other assault regiment, the 1 1 9th 
Infantry (Colonel Sutherland), had met 
with difficulties in the West Wall attack. 
Attempting to reach the Wurm south of 
Rimburg, to the right of the 117th In- 
fantry's crossing area, the 1 1 gth's leading 
battalion came under German shellfire 
soon after crossing the line of departure. 
The two assault companies nevertheless 
reached the river and under light machine 
gun fire from the railroad embankment 
slapped their duckboard footbridges into 
place. One company then managed to 
build up along the railroad, but fire from 
three pillboxes located west of the railroad 
near the Rimburg Castle stymied the 
other. The Germans had expertly cam- 
ouflaged one of the pillboxes as a house. 
All through the afternoon this company 
fought until at last a combination of 
small arms and bazooka fire reduced these 
three positions. Meanwhile, men of the 
other company found it impossible to 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



265 




Abandoned Crossing at the Wurm River. 



raise their heads above the railroad em- 
bankment. From positions hidden in the 
Rimburg woods, blistering fire frustrated 
every attempt to cross the embankment. 
Commitment of the battalion's reserve 
company served merely to pin more men 
along the railroad. Artillery and mortar 
fire against the enemy positions also had 
little effect. Limits on observation im- 
posed by trees and bushes denied accurate 
adjustment, and as soon as supporting 
shellfirc lifted to permit an assault, the 
Germans would rush from their pillboxes 
and renew their fire from field fortifi- 
cations. 



The 119th Infantry's plan of attack 
had leaned heavily upon the early avail- 
ability of tanks to neutralize just such 
positions as these in the western edge of 
the woods. But the culvert that engineers 
had prepared for bridging the Wurm in 
this regiment's crossing area fell to pieces 
as the tankers towed it over rough ground 
to the river. Although the engineers 
rushed completion of a treadway bridge 
that enabled the tanks to cross in mid- 
afternoon, deep black mud halted every 
attempt to get the tanks up to the infan- 
try positions. 

In an attempt to open up the situation, 



266 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Colonel Sutherland early committed a 
second battalion of infantry on the left of 
the first. Delayed at the river because 
men responsible for bringing the duck- 
board footbridges had abandoned them en 
route, this battalion eventually crossed on 
bridges improvised from fence posts and 
doors. Once beyond the Wurm, the men 
came under intense fire from the Rimburg 
Castle. At last they drove the Germans 
from positions along the wall and moat of 
the castle and by nightfall had built up 
on three sides of this strong outpost posi- 
tion. Protected by medieval masonry, 
the Germans inside held out. 

In late afternoon Colonel Sutherland 
committed his remaining battalion on his 
southern flank, but with no greater suc- 
cess. Once on the east bank, the men 
could advance no farther than the rail- 
road. Like the others before them, they 
discovered it worth a man's life to poke 
his head above the level of the embank- 
ment. 

When engineers at midnight completed 
a second treadway bridge at a permanent 
bridge site between Rimburg and the 
castle, the attached tanks at last had firm 
footing, but the arrival of the tanks had 
come too late to assist the 1 1 gth Infantry 
in getting beyond the railroad into the 
pillbox belt. The day's fighting had 
netted the regiment a shallow bridgehead 
a mile long and 300 yards deep, embrac- 
ing only the flatland between the river 
and the railroad. 

Anticipating immediate German reac- 
tion to the West Wall attack, General 
Hobbs and his regimental commanders 
waited apprehensively as night came for 
the first counterblow to fall. The bridge- 
head of the 1 1 gth Infantry was tenuous 
at best, and that regiment's inability to 
advance beyond the railroad had left the 



1 1 7th Infantry with an exposed right 
flank. For those reasons, General Hobbs 
told his artillery commander to hammer 
through the night at likely enemy assem- 
bly areas and routes leading into the 
restricted bridgehead. 

Unknown to General Hobbs, active 
German reaction to the West Wall assault 
had been delayed because the blow had 
achieved complete surprise. Deceived by 
diversionary attacks made during the day 
northwest of Geilenkirchen by the 29th 
Division and to the south at Kerkrade by 
the 30th Division's 120th Infantry, the 
commanders of the 4gth and 183d Divi- 
sions had been unable to believe for several 
hours that this attack on the narrow 
Marienberg-Rimburg front was "it." 23 
Even when they finally accepted this fact, 
General Macholz of the 4gth Division had 
virtually nothing to throw against the 
bridgehead and General Lange of the 
183d Division had only one battalion as 
an infantry reserve. This battalion Gen- 
eral Lange ordered to counterattack soon 
after dark in company with an assault 
gun battalion. The counterattack could 
not be launched during the day because 
the Germans dared not move assault guns 
in this open terrain under the rapacious 
eyes of American planes and artillery. 24 

As night came, interdictory fires laid 
down by 30th Division and XIX Corps 
artillery were far more effective than any 
American commander could have dared 
to hope. "Murderous" artillery fires, the 
Germans said, delayed the counterattack 



23 MS # B-792 (Macholz). 

24 183d VG Div AAR; Evng and Daily Sitreps, 
183d VG Div to LXXXI Corps, 2 Oct 44, in 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Tel 
Convs, LXXXI Corps- to 183d VG Div, 1430, 
1800, and 2120, 2 Oct 44, in LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



267 



by three hours. 23 Not until midnight did 
the Germans strike and then only with a 
smattering of the original infantry force 
and but two assault guns. The mobile 
guns American bazooka men and rifle 
grenadiers on the northeastern fringe of 
the bridgehead turned back quickly, but 
not until after a brisk fire fight did the 
German infantry retire, leaving behind 
seven dead. The 1 1 7th Infantry lost 
three men, including Private Sirokin, one 
of those who had performed so courage- 
ously that afternoon in the taking of the 
pillboxes. So discouraged by this feeble 
show was the German corps commander, 
General Koechling, that he ordered the 
183d Division's General Lange to confine 
his operations to "sealing off" the penetra- 
tion until stronger forces could be assem- 
bled for more effective countermeasures. 26 
Though the 30th Division had made no 
phenomenal advances during the first 
day of the West Wall attack, this was no 
cause for discouragement. The 119th In- 
fantry had failed to move far enough even 
to clear the Rimburg crossing area of 
direct small arms fire ; yet the 1 1 7th 
Infantry farther north had breached the 
forward line of pillboxes, had seized Palen- 
berg and the high ground immediately 
south of it, and was ready to resume the 
advance along a main highway through 
Uebach. The leading battalion of the 
117th Infantry had incurred 146 casual- 
ties, including 12 killed, and the only 
other battalion to see major action had 
lost 70, including 12 killed. Engineers 
had thrown sturdy bridges across the 
Wurm at both Marienberg and Rimburg. 

25 183d VG Div AAR; Mng Sitrep, LXXXI 
Corps to Seventh Army, 0555, 3 Oct 44, in 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. 

20 Ibid. See also American accounts in records 
of the 117th Infantry. 



Prospects for the next day were bright, 
even in the sector of the 1 1 gth Infantry 
where plans progressed during the night 
for outflanking the stubborn Germans in 
the Rimburg woods. 

The diversionary attack northwest of 
Geilenkirchen which had fooled the Ger- 
man division commanders for several hours 
had been launched on the left flank of the 
30th Division by two battalions of the 
29th Division. The purpose was to tie 
down enemy forces and prevent their use 
against the main attack. From the first 
resistance was stanch. Even on subse- 
quent days when the 29th Division en- 
larged operations to include elements of 
two regiments, the Germans held firm. 
This was not to say that the attack did 
not worry the Germans. General von 
Obstfelder, whose corps of the First Para- 
chute Army was adjacent to this sector 
and who was at the moment embroiled 
in a fight with the 7th U.S. Armored 
Division in the Peel Marshes, anxiously 
inquired on 3 October whether General 
Koechling's LXXXI Corps was going to 
take any countermeasures against the 
29th Division's attack. In view of the 
situation at Marienberg and Rimburg, 
General Koechling had to respond in the 
negative. 2 ' The Germans nevertheless re- 
acted sensitively to the 29th Division's 
attacks, and in one instance virtually 
annihilated a company of American 
infantry in a village named Schierwalden- 
rath. A later raid on the village brought 
revenge, but as operations developed in 
the 30th Division sector, the 29th Division 
limited offensive action to reinforced 



27 Tel Conv, LXXXVI Corps to LXXXI 
Corps, 1920, 3 Oct 44, in LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampfverlauf. 



268 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Rimburg Castle, showing moat in the foreground. 



patrols. The Germans were content to 
let it go at that. 28 

In the meantime, along the railroad east 
of Rimburg, the 119th Infantry discovered 
early on the second day ( 3 October ) of 
the West Wall attack that the passing of 
night had done little to lessen opposition 
in the Rimburg woods. The only prog- 
ress at first was against the Rimburg 
Castle, and that because many of the 



See 29th Div AAR, Oct 44, and Joseph H. 
Ewing, Us Let's Go! A History of the Qgth In- 
fantry Division in World War J J (Washington; 
Infantry Journal Press, 1948). This is among 
the better unit histories. 



Germans who had made the castle such a 
fortress the afternoon before had sneaked 
out during the night. 

No hope remaining for carrying the 
Rimhurg woods in a frontal assault, the 
119th Infantry commander, Colonel 
Sutherland, put into motion plans he had 
made during the night. He dispatched a 
ta.sk force under command of his executive 
officer, Lt. Col. Daniel W. Quinn, to 
cross the 117th Infantry's bridges at 
Marienberg, hit the Rimburg woods from 
the north, and cut off the German posi- 
tions by moving behind the woods. 
Composed of two companies of infantry 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



269 



(both from the 2d Battalion) and a 
company each of tanks and self-propelled 
tank destroyers, Task Force Quinn quickly 
made its weight felt. A few rounds from 
the tank guns against the northern tip of 
the woods brought about a hundred Ger- 
mans scurrying from two pillboxes and 
surrounding entrenchments to surrender. 
Relieving pressure on the 1st Battalion, 
1 1 9th Infantry, the task force continued 
to work south. The only real difficulty 
came from intense enemy fire from the 
vicinity of the regimental objective, the 
crossroads atop the eastern slopes of the 
Wurm valley near Herbach. 

This fire proved a harbinger of what 
was to greet the 1st Battalion when in 
late afternoon the men emerged from the 
Rimburg woods. Having cleared about a 
dozen pillboxes, the 119th Infantry had at 
last broken through the first band of 
fortifications, but Task Force Quinn's 
envelopment had not been deep enough to 
precipitate any substantial advance. 
Once again the Germans brought the 
regiment to an abrupt halt after a gain of 
only a few hundred yards. Casualties 
from this kind of close, confined fighting 
were becoming increasingly heavy: one 
rifle company, for example, had lost half 
of one platoon and all of another except 
the platoon sergeant. By the end of the 
second day of fighting, the depth of the 
1 1 9th Infantry's bridgehead was still no 
more than a thousand yards. 

For his part in renewing the attack on 
3 October, the 1 1 7th Infantry's Colonel 
Johnson committed his reserve battalion 
(the 3d) to drive on Uebach, about a 
mile east of the Wurm, and then to cut 
the Geilenkirchen-Aachen highway and 
occupy high ground east of the highway 
between Uebach and Beggendorf. Al- 
most immediately, tedious house-to-house 



fighting developed. The Germans seemed 
determined to make of Uebach a point of 
decision. Round after round of mortar 
and artillery fire they poured into the little 
town. Some of the American infantry 
called it the heaviest German shelling 
since the battles at Mortain in Normandy. 
The commander of the regiment's support- 
ing 1 1 8th Field Artillery Battalion haz- 
arded a guess that the Germans had 
finally found a copy of the American field 
artillery manual telling how to mass their 
fires. The first few concentrations took a 
particularly heavy toll because the doors 
and windows of all houses except those 
actually defended were locked and barred. 
That made cover in the houses at first 
hard to get at. 

Commitment of CCB 

Into the maelstrom that Uebach had 
become rolled the tanks and half-tracks of 
the 2d Armored Division's Combat Com- 
mand B. During the morning of 3 Octo- 
ber, General Corlett had ordered the 
armor to start crossing the Marienberg 
bridges at noon. The 30th Division was 
to give priority to the armor's passage in 
order that the combat command might 
expand the bridgehead to the north and 
northeast and free the infantry for the 
push southward to link with the VII 
Corps. The rest of the , 2d Armored 
Division was to follow CCB as soon as 
enough space for deployment could be 
gained. 29 

Committing a combat command with 
its wealth of vehicles in a confined bridge- 
head where an infantry regiment still was 
struggling to gain enough room for its 
own operations was a risky business. 

29 XIX Corps Ltr of Instrs 40, 3 Oct, XIX 
Corps Ltr of Instrs file, Oct 44. 



270 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



None could have been more aware of this 
than General Corlett and the infantry 
commander, General Hobbs, for their 
memories would serve to remind them of 
a similar instance in Normandy where pre- 
mature commitment of armor into a 30th 
Division bridgehead had brought a welter 
of confusion that had bogged down a 
promising attack. 30 Yet in the present 
situation Corlett was less concerned about 
likely confusion than about losing the little 
Wurm River bridgehead altogether. He 
wanted the weight of the armor on hand 
before the Germans could mount a sizable 
counterattack. 31 

For all the limitations of space, the 
commitment of the armor might have 
proceeded smoothly except for the intense 
German shelling. Although the infantry 
commanders adjusted their zones to give 
the armor free rein in the northern half of 
Uebach, the shelling intensified an in- 
evitable intermingling of units in the 
winding streets of the town. A day of 
clouds and rain kept American planes 
from doing anything about the enemy's 
artillery. By nightfall (3 October) 
neither the armor nor the leading battalion 
of the 117th Infantry had advanced 
farther than the northern and eastern 
edges of Uebach, and not all buildings 
within the town, particularly in the south- 
ern portion, were yet in friendly hands. 
Lined up almost bumper to bumper back 
to the Marienberg bridges, CCB's ve- 
hicles provided any incentive the enemy 
might have needed to continue and even to 
increase his disturbing shellfires. 

As General Corlett had feared, German 
commanders in the meantime had been 

30 For this story, see Blumenson, Breakout and 
Pursuit, Ch. VI. 

31 Ltr, Gen Harmon to OCMH, 5 Jan 54. 



rushing preparations for a concentric 
counterattack with main effort in the 
south ( primarily against the 1 1 9th In- 
fantry ) . To facilitate control in the 
attack, the enemy corps commander, 
General Koechling, put both 4gth and 
183d Division troops in the threatened 
sector under one commander, the 183d 
Division's General Lange. Then Koech- 
ling ordered additional forces to the 
sector: two assault gun brigades, the 
183d Division's organic engineer battalion, 
two infantry battalions of the 4Qth Divi- 
sion, and an infantry battalion of the 246th 
Division from Aachen. 32 

To allow time for all these units to 
arrive, Koechling delayed the hour of 
attack until 0215 on 4 October. 33 Yet 
when that hour approached, nobody was 
ready except the engineer battalion. 
When the engineers attacked from the east, 
heavy concentrations of artillery fire as- 
sisted the 3d Battalion of the 1 1 7th Infan- 
try in Uebach in beating off the assault, 
but not before the Germans had cut off 
about fifteen men in a house on the 
eastern edge of the town. These men 
played cat and mouse all day with Ger- 
man tanks and infantry and escaped only 
in late afternoon after artillery fire and 
advance of 2d Armored Division tanks 
scared off seven German tanks that were 
closing in. 

Not until dawn on 4 October were the 
bulk of the German reinforcements ready 
to counterattack. Their main strike hit 
the center of the 1 1 9th Infantry. Sup- 
ported by the two assault gun brigades, 
one battalion of the 4gth Division forced 

32 AAR, 183d VG Div; Tel Conv, LXXX1 
Corps to 183d VG Div, 1900, 3 Oct 44, in 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 

33 Ibid. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



271 




an American company to fall back in 
confusion. Before the Germans could ex- 
ploit the success, "shorts" from their own 
artillery threw the attackers into con- 
fusion. By the time they were able to 
renew the attack, the tigth Infantry was 
set. 

The enemy was still much in evidence 
that afternoon when the I r gth Infantry 
attempted to renew its drive from the 
Rimburg woods onto the eastern slopes of 
the Wurm valley. Knocking out two 
Sherman tanks, the Germans quickly 
broke the back of the push. 

In the meantime, on the northeastern 
edge of Ucbach, the third German blow 
had been doomed from the start. The 
German thrust ran head on into an at- 



tempt by the right task, force (Task Force 
i ) o£ Combat Command B to emerge 
from Ucbach. Only one German infan- 
try battalion actually reached Ucbach, 
there to be smashed completely and 
reduced to twenty-five men. 

This force which had looked so impres- 
sive to German commanders on paper 
thus was reduced to impotency in a 
matter of hours. Yet the achievement 
had not come easy for the Americans. 
So severe were the casualties of the bat- 
talion of the 117th Infantry in Uebach 
that the commander, Lt. Col, Samuel T. 
McDowell, had difficulty reorganizing his 
men for resuming the offensive. Though 
not so hard hit by losses, the armor of 
CCB had similar difficulty in getting 



272 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



started, partly because of striking direct 
into one prong of the German counter- 
attack. 

Not until late afternoon of 4 October 
was any American advance of appreciable 
proportions achieved. At that time Task 
Force 2 of CCB under Col. Sidney R. 
Hinds attacked from Uebach to seize 
high ground about the settlement of Hov- 
erhof, a mile north of Uebach, upon 
which to anchor the northern flank of the 
bridgehead. Delayed twice when two 
successive commanders of the armored 
infantry battalion fell victim to the 
blanketlike shelling in Uebach, the ad- 
vance finally began about 1600. Even 
though the sector opposite the task force 
was studded with pillboxes, the armored 
infantry and supporting tanks moved for- 
ward quickly. Operating with well- 
executed co-ordination, a forward observer 
first brought down artillery upon the 
pillboxes to drive the defenders from field 
positions into the fortifications; then the 
tanks blasted apertures and entrances of 
the pillboxes with armor-piercing ammu- 
nition. Almost invariably, as soon as the 
tanks ceased fire and the infantry closed 
in, the Germans emerged docilely. By 
nightfall Task Force 2 held the high 
ground near Hoverhof. Eighty Germans 
surrendered, and the attackers sustained 
not a single casualty once the attack had 
gotten under way. 34 

In the meantime, Task Force 1 of CCB 
under Col. Paul A. Disney had been 
fighting its meeting engagement with one 
prong of the German counterattack north- 
east of Uebach. At one point Disney's 
task force dueled with a covey of seven 

34 Official records of the 2d Armored Division 
for this period are supplemented by one combat 
interview to be found in 30th Division Combat 
Interview files. 



self-propelled guns and destroyed them all 
with the loss of but two of its own tanks. 
By the end of the day, Colonel Disney 
had gained positions about 800 yards be- 
yond Uebach, only a few yards short of 
the Geilenkirchen- Aachen highway; but 
the task force had paid for the short 
advance with heavy personnel losses and 
eleven medium tanks. 

Resuming the attack the next morning 
(5 October), CCB found the pattern of 
resistance unchanged. On the right wing, 
where the tanks and infantry faced Ger- 
man tanks and self-propelled guns, Colo- 
nel Disney's Task Force 1 gained only a 
few hundred yards. Though this was 
sufficient to cut the Geilenkirchen-Aachen 
highway, it fell short of the objective, the 
village of Beggendorf. In the north, men 
of Colonel Hinds's Task Force 2 repeated 
the tactics used so successfully the day 
before against the pillboxes and found the 
enemy thoroughly cowed. Discovering 
telephone communications intact in a 
captured pillbox, a noncommissioned offi- 
cer, Sgt. Ezra Cook, notified the Germans 
in another pillbox, "We've just taken 
your comrades and now we're coming 
after you." From a nearby pillbox that 
Sergeant Cook and his companions had 
not detected, twenty-five Germans 
emerged with hands high. By nightfall 
the assault teams had cleared Zweibrug- 
gen, another river village farther north — 
Frelenberg — and had built up along a 
highway leading northeast out of Frelen- 
berg. 

Not until the next day, 6 October, did 
the Germans get tanks and antitank guns 
into position to meet this threat. They 
finally stopped Task Force 2 late on 6 
October with dug-in infantry backed up 
by direct fire weapons along a spur rail- 
way less than a thousand yards short of 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



273 



the West Wall strongpoint of Geilen- 
kirchen. On the same date, Task Force 
i, its objective changed from Beggendorf 
to Waurichen, northeast of Uebach, fol- 
lowed closely behind a rolling artillery 
barrage to reach the edge of the village. 
An additional short advance the next day 
would carry the objective and forge the 
last segment of a firm arc along the 
northeastern flank of the bridgehead. 

For all their inability to halt these 
armored thrusts on the third, fourth, and 
fifth days of the West Wall fight, German 
commanders were struggling to create 
another sizable reserve force capable of 
throwing back the American bridgehead. 
As early as 4 October, the day the first 
major counterattacks had failed, the 
Commander in Chief West, Field Marshal 
von Rundstedt, and the Seventh Army 
commander, General Brandenberger, had 
visited General Koechling's LXXXI Corps 
command post and come away with the 
impression that the forces locally avail- 
able were insufficient. Directing General 
Koechling to send to the threatened sector 
every unit from the LXXXI Corps that 
possibly could be spared, General Brand- 
enberger promised reinforcements from 
outside the corps. 35 

Before the day was through, General 
Koechling had ordered five more units to 
the Uebach sector: a Landesschuetzen 
battalion, an assault gun brigade, and a 
howitzer battalion, all from the sector of 
the 12th Division southeast of Aachen, an 
antitank company with six 75-mm. anti- 
tank guns from the 246th Division at 
Aachen, and a separate, so-called "tank 
company" equipped with relatively ineffi- 



35 LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf, 4 Oct 
44. 



cacious gimmicks called "remote-control 
robot assault guns." Believing that the 
addition of these forces to the miscellany 
already in the threatened sector would 
create a force too big for adequate control 
by one man, Koechling removed the 
single command he had invested in Gen- 
eral Lange and restored the boundary 
between the 4gth and 183d Divisions to 
run roughly from Beggendorf west to 
Uebach. 38 

For his part, the Seventh Army com- 
mander, General Brandenberger, lined up 
five units for transfer to the LXXXI 
Corps: Army NCO Training Schools 
Dueren and Juelich, which were to fight 
as infantry units; an infantry battalion 
from the 275th Division, which was now 
with the LXXIV Corps in the Huertgen 
Forest; a fortress machine gun battalion; 
and an artillery brigade which had two 
batteries of 150-mm. howitzers and one 
battalion of very heavy howitzers. 37 

In the meantime, the corps commander, 
General Koechling, took further steps to 
gain a greater concentration of troops. 
Having already drawn upon the resources 
of the 246th Division at Aachen, he never- 
theless ordered that division to relinquish 
the entire 404th Grenadier Regiment. At 
the same time he directed the two incom- 
ing NCO training schools to relieve the 
183d Division's 343d Grenadier Regiment 



36 Tel Convs, LXXXI Corps to 246th Div, 
1225, 4 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps to 12th Div, 1230, 
4 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps to 183d Div, 1250 and 
i535> 4 Oct 44, and LXXXI Corps to 49th Div, 
1530, 4 Oct 44, all in LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampfverlauf; Order, LXXXI Corps to 183d 
and 49th Divs, 1345, 4 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps 
KTB, Befehle an Div; AAR, 183d VG Div. 

37 Order, Brandenberger to LXXXI Corps, 
2035, 4 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: 
Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw. 



274 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



opposite the 29th U.S. Division northwest 
of Geilenkirchen in order that the 343d 
Regiment also might be available for the 
counterattack. As for artillery, General 
Koechling now had 10 batteries of 105- 
mm. howitzers and 7 batteries of 150-mm. 
howitzers, a total of about 60 pieces. He 
expected to add another 27 150-mm. 
howitzers within a few days and to put 
32 88-mm. antiaircraft guns opposite the 
threatened sector during the night of 6 
October. 38 

Like the force assembled for the first 
major counterattacks on 4 October, the 
sum of these units was more impressive on 
paper than in reality. Nevertheless, if all 
could be assembled at once for a genuinely 
co-ordinated counterstroke, the possibil- 
ities were encouraging. 

Unfortunately for the Germans, the 
projected troop movements took consider- 
ably more time than anticipated. For 
the second time in the West Wall fight, a 
lesson as often demonstrated as any other 
from German experience during the fall 
campaign was repeated: assembling units 
from various sections of the front in a 
minimum of time and hoping to execute 
a co-ordinated counterattack with such a 
multipartite force is an exacting assign- 
ment. Although General Koechling had 
intended to assemble all forces during the 
night of 4 October and strike the next 
day, almost every unit ran into difficul- 
ties. Moving from the sector of the 12th 
Division southeast of Aachen, the Landes- 
schuetzen battalion, for example, came 
under such heavy fire from artillery units 
of the VII Corps that the battalion had 

38 AAR 183d VG Div; Tel Convs, Seventh 
Army to LXXXI Corps, 2200, 2 Oct, and LXXX1 
Corps Arty O to aide, 2230, 4 Oct 44, LXXXI 
Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Order, LXXXI 
Corps to 183d and 49th Divs, 2040, 4 Oct 44, 
in LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. 



to delay until dense morning mists con- 
cealed movement. The NCO trainees 
from Dueren and Juelich failed to arrive 
until just before daylight on 5 October, 
too late for relieving the 343d Regiment 
northwest of Geilenkirchen, for that regi- 
ment could not disengage in daylight. 
The 246th Division's 404th Regiment 
from Aachen did not reach a designated 
assembly area until noon on 5 October. 39 

Had the Americans been inactive in the 
meantime, the Germans might have been 
able to surmount the setbacks involved in 
these delays. As it was, the Americans 
were renewing their offensive. Having 
failed to strike early on 5 October, General 
Koechling had lost his chance. Now he 
might be forced to commit his units 
piecemeal according to the pattern of 
American attacks. 

Early on 5 October, as CCB was taking 
the first steps toward forging a firm arc 
about the northeastern fringes of the West 
Wall bridgehead, the two regiments of the 
30th Division renewed their drives — the 
one to break out of the Rimburg woods, 
the other to push southeastward from 
Uebach in the direction of Alsdorf, not 
quite three miles from Uebach and a 
major milestone on the road to juncture 
with the VII Corps northeast of Aachen. 

The first objective of the latter thrust, 
to be made by Colonel McDowell's 3d 
Battalion, 1 1 7th Infantry, was a hamlet at 
a crossroads about halfway between 
Uebach and Alsdorf. Shortly after the 
jump-off, intense machine gun fire from 
the barracks of a cantonment on the 
eastern flank of the battalion's route of 
advance pinned McDowell's infantry to 
the ground. At the same time concealed 

39 AAR, 183d VG Div; Tel Convs, LXXXI 
Corps to 183d Div, 0145, 0600, 0640, and 1200, 
5 Oct 44, in LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



275 



antitank guns knocked out five supporting 
tanks. Although the 117th Infantry 
commander, Colonel Johnson, quickly 
committed another battalion, this unit 
could make little headway. The Germans 
might have failed in their efforts to 
muster sizable force for counterattack, 
but what they did have was proving no 
pushover. 

Meanwhile, the commander of the 
1 1 gth Infantry, Colonel Sutherland, had 
decided to abandon his frontal assault out 
of the Rimburg woods against the cross- 
roads near Herbach. Instead, he planned 
to repeat the envelopment tactic he had 
used earlier in eliminating the Germans in 
the Rimburg woods, but this time the 
envelopment was to be deep enough to 
carve a sizable slice out of the German 
position. During the night of 4 October, 
Colonel Sutherland sent his 2d Battalion 
under Lt. Col. William C. Cox into the 
1 1 7th Infantry's zone at Uebach to attack 
south across his regimental front along 
gently sloping ground a thousand yards 
behind the ridge which was his first 
objective. The maneuver got off to an 
auspicious start during the night when a 
patrol sneaked up on one of at least ten 
pillboxes lying in the battalion's path and 
captured fourteen occupants. 

The real impetus to Colonel Cox's 
attack the next morning, 5 October, came 
from a platoon leader in Company E, 
T. Sgt. Harold L. Holycross, who adopted 
pillbox assault methods similar to those 
used north of Uebach by CCB's Task 
Force 2. Sergeant Holycross' methods 
may have been dictated by the fact that his 
company had neither flame throwers nor 
pole charges. While a platoon of self- 
propelled tank destroyers acted as over- 
watchers on the east flank, two platoons 
of tanks fired high explosive against the 



pillboxes in order to drive the defenders 
from field fortifications into the pillboxes. 
Then the tankers switched to armor- 
piercing ammunition while Sergeant Holy- 
cross and an advance force of but four 
men pressed forward. When the five got 
within a hundred yards of the pillboxes, 
the tankers lifted their fire. Without 
exception, the enemy in each pillbox 
promptly raised a white flag. As one 
soldier put it, the infantry "just held the 
bag" while the Germans walked in. 

By the end of the day Company E had 
pushed all the way down the ridge to a 
point east of Herbach, and another com- 
pany had followed closely to occupy some 
of the fortifications. Only one pillbox 
remained to be taken at the southern tip 
of the high ground. Against the wishes of 
the company commander, 1st Lt. Warne 
R. Parker, Company E had to let this 
pillbox wait until the next day, because 
the supporting tanks were running low on 
ammunition. 

As Lieutenant Parker had feared, fail- 
ure to capture the last pillbox was a 
mistake. At daylight on 6 October, ele- 
ments of two battalions of the 4gth 
Division's 148th Regiment used the pillbox 
as a forward base for counterattacking 
the other positions. 40 Under cover of fire 
from two tanks or assault guns, at least 
one of which sat in hull defilade behind 
the mound of the pillbox, German infan- 
try moved forward with three other tanks 
or assault guns in support. As they 
approached, the American riflemen in the 
most forward pillboxes failed to heed the 
lesson demonstrated the day before by the 



40 It presumably was a local counterattack of a 
type often launched for limited objectives but not 
always included in records of higher headquarters. 
German sources make no mention of this action. 



276 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



ineffective German defense: pummeled by 
enemy fire, they retreated into the pill- 
boxes. While some of the counterattack- 
ing infantry kept the apertures closed with 
small arms fire, other Germans assaulted. 
In this manner the enemy retook four 
pillboxes and captured at least a hundred 
men, including three officers. 

Throughout the action, Colonel Cox 
and his company commanders called 
frantically for tank support, but both the 
tanks and tank destroyers had retired for 
maintenance and supply. Not for two 
hours did they return. Only the courage 
of the men in the next two pillboxes in 
the path of the German advance, plus 
heavy concentrations of mortar and artil- 
lery fire, saved the day. Despite the 
enemy fire, these men refused to budge 
from their foxholes and trenches outside 
the pillboxes. As the enemy lifted his 
shellfire to permit his infantry to close, 
they mowed the Germans down with rifles 
and machine guns. When American 
tanks at last arrived, one commanded by 
ist Lt. Walter D. Macht knocked out 
three of the German vehicles. The other 
two withdrew. Using the same methods 
employed by both Sergeant Holycross and 
the Germans, a reserve company of the 
1 1 9th Infantry subsequently retook the 
four pillboxes. 

As on the day before, German artillery 
during the counterattack of 6 October 
continued to hammer the bridgehead with 
some of the heaviest concentrations many 
of the ^American troops had ever experi- 
enced. One man said it was "really big 
stuff — it came in like an express train." 
Obviously, the German corps commander, 
General Koechling, was making good in- 
structions from his army commander to 
mass all LXXXI Corps artillery against 
the bridgehead, no matter how this might 



deplete other sectors. 41 Ringed around 
the extended periphery of the bridgehead 
and protected by clouds and overcast 
denying large-scale Allied air operations 
and limiting sound and flash detections, 
the German artillery was difficult to 
neutralize with counterbattery fires. A 
telling shortage of artillery ammunition on 
the American side contributed to the 
problem. Unable to allot more than an 
average of twenty-four rounds per German 
battery, U.S. gunners could hope to do no 
more than silence the enemy guns tem- 
porarily. On 5 October XIX Corps artil- 
lery executed ninety-nine counterbattery 
missions, and still the Germans fired. 
Approximately 66 percent of all casualties 
incurred in the West Wall fight by the 2d 
Armored and 30th Divisions stemmed 
from artillery and mortar shell fragments. 42 

Even the elusive Luftwaffe tried to get 
into the bombardment act on 5 October. 
Taking advantage of cloudy skies that 
discouraged Allied airmen, German planes 
came over in high-flying groups of twenty 
and thirty with the objective of bombing 
Palenberg. Although German ground 
observers reported results as "very good," 
American units noted no appreciable 
damage. The enemy's 4Qth Division re- 
quested that the planes strike American 
concentrations at Uebach next time, but 
there was no next time. 43 

Few could have recognized it as such at 
the time, but the German counterattack 



41 Order, Brandenberger to LXXXI Corps, 
2035, 4 Oct 44. 

42 XIX Corps Special Rpt, Breaching the 
Siegfried Line, and comments on draft of this 
study by Col James R. Winn, FA, found in XIX 
Corps AAR, Oct 44. 

43 See Tel Convs, Air Ln O, Seventh Army, to 
LXXXI Corps, 1315, and LXXXI Corps to 49th 
Div, 2140, 5 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, 
Kampfverlauf. 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



277 



against Colonel Cox's men in the pillboxes 
east of the Rimburg woods on 6 October 
was the high-water mark of resistance to 
the XIX Corps bridgehead. Every unit 
that Koechling and Brandenberger had 
fixed upon for movement to the threatened 
sector had been absorbed by the un- 
remitting pressure of the 2d Armored 
Division's CCB and the two regiments of 
the 30th Division. Although the NCO 
training schools from Dueren and Juelich 
had at last relieved the 183d Division's 
343d Regiment northwest of Geilenkir- 
chen, that regiment was so disabled 
during the night of 5 October in piecemeal 
and inconsequential counterattacks south 
of Geilenkirchen against contingents of 
CCB that it was capable of little other 
than defensive missions. The 246th Di- 
vision's 404th Regiment from Aachen had 
been thrown hurriedly into the defense 
against other units of CCB between 
Geilenkirchen and Beggendorf. At Beg- 
gendorf the Landesschuetzen .battalion 
moved up from the 12th Division sector 
was seriously depleted. Elsewhere about 
the bridgehead were the original con- 
tingents of the 4gth and 183d Divisions 
and a few other miscellaneous units the 
German commanders had brought up, all 
severely damaged by the American assault. 
Sprinkled among the infantry were 
twenty-seven assault guns remaining in 
five assault-gun units. 44 

In early stages of the West Wall fight- 
ing, the Germans were denied use of at 
least one battalion of the 4gth Division 
because of holding the re-entrant "bridge- 



44 AAR, 183d VG Div; Table of Tank and 
Antitank Gun Situation as of 2100, 5 Oct 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Table of 
independent units attached to LXXXI Corps divs 
as of 5 Oct 44, in LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle 
an Div. 



head" west of the Wurm at the town of 
Kerkrade. Even as two regiments of the 
30th Division had struck at Marienberg 
and Rimburg, the third regiment, the 
1 20th Infantry, had made a feint against 
the German position at Kerkrade. Then, 
on 4 October, the 120th Infantry had 
staged an actual attack. After fighting 
stubbornly and launching one futile coun- 
terattack, the Germans had withdrawn 
from the bridgehead during the night. 
This freed one battalion of the 120th 
Infantry to move the next day (5 Octo- 
ber) to cross the Wurm and fill a growing 
gap between the 117th and 119th Regi- 
ments southwest of Uebach. The re- 
mainder of the 1 20th Infantry would 
follow later. 

During the afternoon of 6 October, the 
Army Group B commander, Field Marshal 
Model, went to the LXXXI Corps com- 
mand post to attempt to do what Generals 
Koechling and Brandenberger thus far 
had failed to accomplish: to assemble 
sufficient forces for making a decisive 
counterattack against the West Wall 
bridgehead. 45 But Field Marshal Model 
was too late. The Americans now were 
getting set to exploit their bridgehead; 
the Germans would have to go to ex- 
traordinary measures to assemble sufficient 
strength to push them back behind the 
Wurm. Although Field Marshal Model 
could not have known it at the time, any 
counterattack he might devise at this 
point would be directed more toward pre- 
venting a link between the XIX and VII 
U.S. Corps northeast of Aachen than 
toward eliminating the XIX Corps 
bridgehead. 

Juncture with the VII Corps to en- 

45 Tel Conv, Seventh Army to LXXXI Corps, 
1340, 6 Oct 44, in LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampf- 
verlauf. 



278 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



circle Aachen now was uppermost in the 
minds of American commanders. Though 
General Corlett had hoped originally to 
use only the 30th Division for the link-up 
while the 2d Armored Division struck 
eastward for crossings over the Roer River, 
the army commander, General Hodges, 
made it clear that operations were to be 
confined to the West Wall until link-up 
was achieved. 46 In early afternoon of 6 
October, General Corlett told the armor 
to hold in place along the northeastern 
and eastern fringes of the bridgehead while 
at the same time making a main effort 
southeastward to help the 30th Division 
link with the VII Corps. 47 

The stage had been set for this maneuver 
during the preceding afternoon when the 
2d Armored Division commander, Gen- 
eral Harmon, had brought his second 
combat command, CCA, across the Wurm 
bridges into Uebach. Once the armor 
had established a solid defensive line, 
General Harmon directed, CCB was to 
hold in place while CCA assisted the 
30th Division. As finally constituted, 
CCB's defensive arc along the north, 
northeast, and east of the West Wall 
bridgehead would run from north of 
Frelenberg east along the spur railroad 
below Geilenkirchen, thence southeast 
through Waurichen almost to Beggendorf. 
The easternmost troops of CCB would be 
just over three miles beyond the Wurm 
River. 

Even before General Corlett revealed 
his change of plan in the afternoon of 6 
October, CCA had gone into action in 
conjunction with the 1 1 7th Infantry to 
expand the bridgehead. Early that day, 
as Colonel Cox's battalion of the 1 1 9th 

40 Corlett to OCMH, 20 May 56. 
47 XIX Corps Ltr of Instrs 4, 1400, 6 Oct, 
XIX Corps Ltr of Instrs file, Oct. 44. 



Infantry was having trouble in the pill- 
boxes near Herbach, one column of CCA 
struck northeast to take Beggendorf and 
two other columns moved southeast. 
One headed in the direction of Baesweiler, 
southeast of Beggendorf; the other ad- 
vanced close along the flank of the 1 1 7th 
Infantry in a renewal of the infantry's 
drive on the crossroads hamlet southeast 
of Uebach, where the 117th had been 
balked the day before. The weight of 
the armor and a clear day, which per- 
mitted six close-support missions by 
fighter-bombers of the IX Tactical Air 
Command, provided the margin of suc- 
cess. The crossroads hamlet fell and, in 
the process, the nearby cantonment which 
had bristled the day before with German 
guns. Beggendorf also fell, and CCA's 
center column pushed more than a mile to 
the east almost to the edge of the town 
of Baesweiler. 

This success on 6 October and General 
Corlett's order in early afternoon clearly 
indicated that the fight for a West Wall 
bridgehead was nearing an end. Indeed, 
so successful were the day's operations 
that the necessity for any part of the 2d 
Armored Division to assist the 30th Divi- 
sion to link with the VII Corps became 
questionable. Nevertheless, CCA did 
continue to attack and by the end of 7 
October had overrun Baesweiler and 
neared the neighboring town of Oidt- 
weiler, thereby severing a main highway 
running northeast from Aachen to the 
Roer River town of Linnich. For the 
next few days the entire 2d Armored 
Division prepared an iron defensive arc 
about the eastern and northeastern rims 
of the bridgehead while the 30th Division 
continued the southward drive alone. A 
battalion of the 29th Division's 11 6th 
Infantry reinforced the armor, while the 



A SET ATTACK AGAINST THE WEST WALL 



279 



rest of the 1 1 6th Infantry relieved the two 
remaining battalions of the 120th Infantry 
at Kerkrade so that this third regiment 
might participate in the 30th Division's 
drive. 

Although German commanders had an- 
ticipated in the first days of the West Wall 
fight that the XIX Corps might swing 
southward to link with the VII Corps, by 
the time the shift occurred, German 
strength was so depleted that there was 
little German commanders could do about 
it. Though they shifted the left regiment 
of the 4gth Division to control of the 
246th Division to place the defense of 
Aachen in the hands of one commander, 
the day of 7 October became a day of 
exploitation against a beaten and disor- 
ganized enemy. Approximately a thous- 
and prisoners passed through the 30th 
Division's cage. 

Led by tanks of the attached 743d 
Tank Battalion, the 117th Infantry 
charged two miles into the town of 
Alsdorf. Reduced now to one organic 
infantry regiment, the enemy's 4gth Divi- 
sion could do nothing about it. One 
unit overrun was an infantry battalion of 
the 12th Division the Germans had hur- 
riedly brought into the line the night 
before. 48 Once the Americans had broken 
a crust of resistance on the fringes of 
Alsdorf, they moved in easily. "Alsdorf 
was a ghost town . . .," one officer re- 
ported, "and it was so damned quiet it 
scared you." 

Still assisted by a battalion of the 120th 
Infantry, Colonel Sutherland's 119th In- 
fantry also surged southward. At the 
coal-mining town of Merkstein, one reason 
for speedy success was a well-directed 

48 AAR on opns of 7 Oct 44, 49th Inf Div, 
10 Oct 44, LXXXl Corps KTB, Meldungen der 
Div. 



American air strike; another was the 
action of a one-man army, Pvt. Salvatore 
Pepe, a scout in one of the rifle platoons. 
Pepe refused to stay down when fire 
forced his platoon to cover. Firing his 
rifle and tossing hand grenades, he charged 
forward alone, wounded four Germans, 
and induced fifty-three others to surren- 
der. He later received the Distinguished 
Service Cross. 

At the end of the day the 1 1 9th Infantry 
was approaching the former 120th Infan- 
try position around Kerkrade. The 30th 
Division was only about three miles 
away from Wuerselen, the planned point 
of contact with the VII Corps. 

Late on 7 October the 30th Division 
commander, General Hobbs, reported to 
General Corlett that the XIX Corps battle 
of the West Wall was over. "We have a 
hole in this thing big enough to drive two 
divisions through," General Hobbs said. 
"I entertain no doubts that this line is 
cracked wide open." 49 The general's 
statement contained no excess exuberance, 
for the West Wall bridgehead now was 
almost six miles long and more than four 
and a half miles deep. 

Executing this attack had cost the 30th 
Division and the 2d Armored Division 
more than 1,800 casualties in all cate- 
gories, including about 200 killed. 50 The 



49 30th Div Tel Jnl, 7 Oct, 30th Div G-3 file, 
7-8 Oct 44. 

50 See 30th Div G-i Jnl Supplements, Oct 44, 
Daily Cumulative Casualty Estimates, and CCB, 
2d Armd Div, S-3 Per Rpt, 1-10 Oct 44, CCB 
AAR, Oct 44. See also 2d Armd Div AAR, Oct 
44. Figures for CCA, 2d Armored Division, are 
available only for the entire month of October; 
the author has made a conservative estimate of 
CCA losses based on the total for the entire 
month and on CCB losses during a comparable 
period in the bridgehead battle. The 30th Divi- 
sion estimate includes the 120th Infantry but not 
attached units. 



280 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



cost in medium tanks to CCB alone was 
fifty-two. 51 Although high, these losses 
were hardly disparate in relation to the 
importance of the task as a prerequisite 
to a renewal of First Army's drive to the 
Rhine. Not only had these two divisions 
ruptured the West Wall, they also had 
forced the Germans to take extraordinary 
steps and expend precious units and ma- 
teriel. A capsule indication of the extent 
to which the enemy had gone to fight 
the penetration might be found in the 
number of big guns he had assembled 
against it. In their futile stand, the Ger- 

51 Compare losses of the entire 7th Armored 
Division in the unsuccessful Peel Marshes offen- 
sive. See Ch. X above. 



mans had employed at least 2 railroad 
guns, a battalion of "very heavy" howit- 
zers, 40 105-mm. howitzers, 47 150-mm. 
howitzers, 32 88-mm. guns, 40 antitank 
guns of 75-mm. caliber or larger, and 
approximately 50 assault guns of varying 
type and caliber. 52 

The first set attack against the West 
Wall was over. Though the 30th Division 
infantrymen and their supporting tankers 
might discern no break in the round-the- 
clock combat routine, the battle now was 
entering a new phase. The next step was 
to link with the VII Corps and encircle 
the city of Aachen. 

52 This estimate is based on Heichler, The 
Germans Opposite XIX Corps. 



CHAPTER XII 

Closing the Circle 



Militarily, the city of Aachen in Octo- 
ber 1944 had little to recommend it. 
Lying in a saucerlike depression sur- 
rounded by hills, Aachen is no natural 
fortress, nor was it an artificial fortress, 
even though it lay within the two bands 
of the West Wall. The city's roads were 
relatively unimportant, since American 
drives both north and south of Aachen 
already had uncovered adequate avenues 
leading toward the Rhine. Not for a 
long time would the city's railroads be of 
use to anyone, so shattered were they 
already from Allied bombs. 1 

But in regard to Aachen the Germans 
had more to work with than usual mili- 
tary considerations. Nor was Hitler's 
insistence upon a fanatical, house-by-house 
defense of the city simply a superficial 
propagandism of the first major German 
city to be threatened with capture. No 
shrine of National Socialism in the sense 
of Munich or Nuremberg, Aachen never- 
theless embodied a heritage precious to 
National Socialist ideology. Aachen rep- 
resented the Holy Roman Empire, the 
First Reich. 

Hitler had no need to remind his 
followers of Aachen's proud history, how 
at one time Aachen was capital of the 
Holy Roman Empire. The Germans 
would know that here, where the Romans 
had built thermal baths amid an alien 



1 See 1st Lt Harry D. Condron, The Fall of 
Aachen, a preliminary MS in 1st Div Combat 
Interv files. 



wilderness, a Carolingian king had es- 
tablished his residence in Aquisgranum in 
the 8th century A.D. That here his son 
Charles was born — Charlemagne, first 
emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. 
That from Aachen Charlemagne had 
reigned over an empire destined to last, in 
one form or another, more than a thous- 
and years. That in Aachen, between the 
years 813 and 1531, thirty-two emperors 
and kings had been anointed. 

Hitler and his disciples were aware 
further how Aachen and the Holy Roman 
Empire were tied to National Socialism. 
After Napoleon had smashed the legalistic 
shell to which by the year 1806 the po- 
litical reality of the Empire had been 
reduced, the romantic element in German 
nationalism soon had forgotten the jibes 
leveled at the "Holy Roman Empire of 
the German Nation" and had identified 
itself with the ideological Empire, one of 
the eternal verities transcending temporal 
politics and nations, the secular counter- 
part of the universal Church. The ro- 
mantic element in German nationalism in 
time had become the religion of National 
Socialism. Hitler himself often prophe- 
sied that his empire, like Charlemagne's, 
would last a thousand years. 

To strike at Aachen was to strike at a 
symbol of Nazi faith. 2 

For all the importance of Aachen as a 
trademark of Nazi ideology, the Germans 

2 For a similar view, see MS # A-991 (Koech- 
ling, comdr of the LXXXI Corps). 



ENCIRCLEMENT OF AACHEN 

7- 20 October 1944 

7" "^T^ Axis 0F MA1N ATTACK 

American position, night 20 Oct 
t == lI=lF=l German line, morning 70ct 
ooooooo German MLR, night 20 Oct 

(7) L.OUSBERG (|) SALVATORBERG (5) FARWICK PARK 

Elevations in meters 

10 12 3MILES 




MAP 4 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



283 



in early October were little better quali- 
fied to deny the city indefinitely than they 
had been in September when the 116th 
Panzer Division's General von Schwerin 
had despaired of holding the city and 
sought to spare it further fighting. 
Schwerin long since had traveled the 
ignominious path of military relief, and 
his division had been withdrawn for re- 
fitting and reorganization; yet the higher 
headquarters which earlier had borne 
responsibility for the city still was on 
hand. This was Koechling's LXXX1 
Corps under Brandenberge.r's Seventh 
Army. That the LXXXI Corps was no 
leviathan already had been proved during 
the early days of October by the West 
Wall penetration of the XIX Corps. 

On 7 October, as the XIX Corps 
entered Alsdorf on the first step of what 
looked like an easy move to encircle 
Aachen, General Koechling's LXXXI 
Corps comprised a nominal four divisions. 

North of Aachen were the 183d 
enadier and 4Qth Infantry Di- 
visions, both severely hurt by the Ameri- 
can West Wall breakthrough. Aachen 
itself lay in the sector of the 246th Volks 
Grenadier Division, commanded by Col. 
Gerhard Wilck, the division which in late 
September had relieved the 116th Panzer 
Division. Southeast of Aachen the south- 
ern wing of the German corps was 
defended by Colonel Engel's 12th Infantry 
Division, which had arrived in the nick of 
time to thwart a breakthrough in the 
Stolberg Corridor but which had drawn 
a bloody nose in the process. The sum 
total of organic infantry and artillery com- 
bat effectives in these four divisions on 7 
October was about 18,000 men. 3 



{Map 4 
VtilU Gl 



3 LXXXI Corps, KTB, Anlagen, Meldungen 
der Div. This figure takes no account of divi- 
sion staffs and organic service troops, corps 



The LXXXI Corps had increased con- 
siderably since mid-September in artillery 
strength. Divisional and corps artillery 
totaled 239 serviceable pieces: 140 light, 
84 medium, and 15 heavy guns. An 
antiaircraft regiment provided added 
strength. Ammunition apparently was 
adequate except for 14 Russian guns 
which had neither ammunition nor trans- 
port. Moreover, four headquarters artil- 
lery battalions to serve under corps control 
were en route to the sector on 7 October. 4 

Tank and antitank strength in the 
LXXXI Corps was less impressive. 
Among the divisional tank destroyer bat- 
talions were 12 serviceable assault guns 
and 26 heavy antitank guns, while under 
corps control were 2 assault gun brigades, 
2 assault gun battalions, and a robot tank 
company, with a combined total of only 
36 serviceable pieces. The 506th Tank 
Battalion had only 4 Mark VI (Tiger) 
tanks, while the 108th Panzer Brigade 
with 7 Mark V (Panther) tanks was 

troops, or attached units. For the German story, 
see Lucian Heichler, The Fall of Aachen, a 
manuscript prepared to complement this volume, 
in OCMH. 

* LXXXI Corps KTB, Anlagen, Kampf um 
Aachen (Corps AAR on Second Batde of 
Aachen) (hereafter cited as LXXXI Corps, 
Kampf um Aachen). For historical purposes, 
the Germans divided the fighting around Aachen 
into three phases or "battles": first, penetration 
of the West Wall by the VII U.S. Corps in Sep- 
tember; second, penetration of the West Wall 
north of Aachen and encirclement and reduction 
of the city; and third, operations east of Aachen 
in November, referred to in this volume as the 
"Battle of the Roer Plain." As a result of 
preservation of LXXXI Corps records covering 
the period of the "Second Battle of Aachen," 
plus many other types of sources, detailed infor- 
mation on almost every aspect of this engagement 
from the German side is available. Only a small 
portion could be used in this study. Additional 
details may be derived from the original records 
and from Heichler, The Fall of Aachen. 



284 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



arriving in the sector on 7 October. 
Almost all these tanks and guns were 
clustered in the vicinity of Alsdorf where 
the XIX U.S. Corps was pressing south- 
ward in the direction of Wuerselen. 5 

In light of the condition and location of 
three of General Koechling's four divi- 
sions, the burden of the fighting at Aachen 
might fall upon the most recent arrival, 
the 246th Volks Grenadier Division. 
Though this division had engaged in no 
major action in its own sector, Colonel 
Wilck's troops already had been decisively 
weakened. In the desperate efforts to 
stem the XIX Corps breakthrough, Gen- 
eral Koechling had rifled his front, includ- 
ing four of Colonel Wilck's seven organic 
infantry battalions. The entire 404th In- 
fantry Regiment and a battalion each of 
the 352d and 68gth Infantry Regiments 
had been attached to neighboring divisions. 

From a local standpoint, the outlook for 
preserving Aachen as a citadel of Nazi 
ideology was bleak indeed. Yet General 
Koechling's superiors had not let him 
down completely. Their most immediate 
step was to try again to assemble an 
effective counterattacking force from di- 
verse elements to strike this time at Alsdorf 
in hopes of thwarting encirclement of 
Aachen. The main component of this 
force was to be Mobile (Schnelle) Regi- 
ment von Fritzschen, which comprised 
three battalions of bicycle-mounted in- 
fantry and engineers. Major support was 
to come from the 108th Panzer Brigade 
and a total of twenty-two assault guns 
from various units. 6 

Any genuine hope of denying Aachen 
for an extended time lay not with this small 

5 LXXXI Corps KTB, T agesmeldungen. 

6 Order, 49th Inf Div to Regt von Fritzschen, 
8 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der 
Div. 



force but with a promise from Com- 
mander in Chief West von Rundstedt 
to commit his most important theater 
reserves. These were the 3d Panzer 
Grenadier and 11 6th Panzer Divisions. 
Attaching these to headquarters of the / 
SS Panzer Corps (General der Waff en SS 
Georg Keppler), Rundstedt directed ma- 
jor operations intended to restore the 
situation about Aachen. Since leaving 
Aachen in September, the 11 6th Panzer 
Division had been built up to about 
1 1 ,500 men and its tank regiment re- 
stored, but of 151 authorized Mark IV 
and Mark V tanks only 41 were on hand. 
Although the 3d Panzer Grenadier Di- 
vision was little more than a motorized 
infantry division, it numbered about 
12,000 men and had 31 75-mm. antitank 
guns and 38 artillery pieces. 7 

Through 5, 6, and 7 October General 
Koechling had waited in vain for appear- 
ance of these reserves. They were on the 
way, but railroad disruptions from Allied 
air attacks had imposed serious delays. 
General Koechling feared catastrophe at 
Aachen before the reserves could be 
committed. 8 

From the American viewpoint, the 
timing of the operation to encircle and 
reduce Aachen depended upon the prog- 
ress of the West Wall penetration north of 
the city. As soon as the XIX Corps 
drive to the vicinity of Wuerselen gave 
evidence of success, General Collins' VII 
Corps was to attack north from a jump- 
off base at Eilendorf, east of Aachen, 
seize Verlautenheide, a strongpoint in the 
second band of the West Wall, and meet 



7 See General Inspekteur der Panzertruppen, 
Zustandsberichte Panzer-Divisionen, Sep-Oct 44, 
and Zustandsberichte- Panzer Grenadier-Division- 
en, Oct 44-Jan 45. 

8 OB WEST KTB, 5, 7 Oct 44. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



285 



the XIX Corps near Wuerselen. With 
Aachen isolated, a part of the VII Corps 
might reduce the city at leisure while the 
XIX Corps and the rest of the VII Corps 
drove east and northeast to the Roer 
River. 9 

The broad outlines of this maneuver 
had been determined when the First Army 
first was approaching the German border. 
That various factors had delayed the XIX 
Corps outside the West Wall until Octo- 
ber and that the Germans had halted the 
overextended VII Corps in the Stolberg 
Corridor had in no way decreased the 
necessity of occupying Aachen eventually. 
Indeed, the job had become more pressing. 
Containing the city was tying down the 
equivalent of a division, a precious com- 
modity needed for more remunerative 
tasks. Besides, indications were that Ger- 
man propagandists were trying to make of 
Aachen a rallying point, a kind of German 
Stalingrad. 

Events at Alsdorf on 7 October con- 
vinced commanders on the American side 
that the time to force the issue at Aachen 
was at hand. To the commander of the 
30th Division, General Hobbs, the job of 
moving three more miles from Alsdorf 
south to the intercorps boundary and the 
link-up objective of Wuerselen appeared 
at worst no more than a two-day assign- 
ment. General Hobbs urged that the VII 
Corps waste no time in launching the 
other part of the encirclement maneuver. 10 

The 30th Division alone bore responsi- 
bility for the XIX Corps role in the 
encirclement. Except for the 30th Di- 
vision and the 2d Armored Division, which 
was holding the eastern and northeastern 

9 FUSA Dir, 29 Sep, as cited in FUSA and 
VII Corps AARs, Oct 44. 

10 30th Div AAR and G-3 Jnl ale, Oct 44; 
Hewitt, Workhorse of the Western Front, p. 126. 



arcs of the West Wall bridgehead, the 
rest of General Corlett's corps still was 
occupied with the attenuated north flank 
west of the West Wall. Although Corlett 
on 6 October had stipulated that the 
armor help the 30th Division, he had 
grown wary of taking the armor away 
from defense of the West Wall bridgehead 
and left the task of link-up to the infantry 
alone. 11 He had strengthened the two 
regiments of the 30th Division in the 
West Wall by providing relief of the 120th 
Infantry, which had been containing Ger- 
mans southwest of the West Wall penetra- 
tion at Kerkrade. He then committed 
the 1 20th between the 117th and 119th 
Regiments. 

By virtue of positions on an arc contain- 
ing Aachen on the south and east, General 
Huebner's 1st Division was the logical 
choice to fulfill the role of the VII Corps. 
For more than a fortnight General Hueb- 
ner had known his assignment; when 
General Hodges in late afternoon of 7 
October endorsed the recommendation 
that the VII Corps begin to attack, the 
1st Division needed little time for prepara- 
tion. General Huebner announced a 
night attack to commence- before dawn 
the next day, 8 October. 12 

General Huebner's primary concern in 
planning his part of the encirclement 
maneuver had been to reduce his long 
defensive frontage — more than twelve 
miles along a semicircle west, south, and 
east of Aachen — and thereby free at least 
one regiment to make the attack. Since 
the gth Division was committed in the 
Huertgen Forest and the 3d Armored 

11 XIX Corps Ltr of Instrs, 6 Oct, XIX Corps 
Ltrs of Instrs file, Oct 44; subsequent tel convs 
between Corlett and Hobbs, • 30th Div G-3 Jnl 
file, Oct 44. 

12 VII Corps AAR, Oct 44. 



286 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Division at Stolberg, his corps commander, 
General Collins, had been unable to pro- 
vide much help. He had exercised the 
only possibility, to put a corps engineer 
unit, the 1 1 06th Engineer Combat Group 
(Col. Thomas DeF. Rogers), into the line 
south of Aachen, thus to release two 
battalions of the 18th Infantry to join the 
rest of the regiment for the first blow 
north against Verlautenheide. Another 
regiment, the 16th Infantry, could not 
participate in the offensive because of the 
necessity to defend the division's north- 
eastern wing from a point near Eilendorf 
to a boundary with the 3d Armored 
Division at Stolberg. The third regiment, 
the 26th Infantry, also held a defensive 
line; yet the positions faced Aachen from 
the southeast so that the 26th Infantry 
might assault the city itself after the 18th 
Infantry had taken Verlautenheide and 
linked with the XIX Corps. 

In terms of distance, the 18th Infantry's 
northward attack was no mammoth un- 
dertaking — only two and a half miles. 
On the other hand, terrain, pillboxes, and 
German determination to hold supply 
routes into Aachen posed a thorny prob- 
lem. The first objective of Verlauten- 
heide in the second band of the West Wall 
was on the forward slope of a sharp ridge, 
denied by a maze of pillboxes provided 
with excellent fields of fire across open 
ground. Crucifix Hill (Hill 239), a 
thousand yards northwest of Verlauten- 
heide, was the next objective, another 
exposed crest similarly bristling with 
pillboxes. The third and final objective 
was equally exposed and fortified: Ravels 
Hill (the Ravelsberg, Hill 231). 

Taking these hills was in itself no minor 
assignment, yet holding them afterward 
might prove even more difficult. This 
would absorb the regiment's three bat- 



talions successively and leave them ex- 
posed in a thin salient to German blows 
from two sides. To send to the 18th 
Infantry's assistance, General Huebner 
had in reserve but one battalion of the 
26th Infantry, plus a hope that some 
contingent of the 3d Armored Division 
might be released to his aid. One way he 
hoped to spare the 18th Infantry was to 
launch the drive against the city itself 
the minute encirclement was complete, 
thereby to tie down those Germans west 
of the 1 8th Infantry's salient. 13 

Perhaps because the 1st Division had 
faced the enemy at Aachen for several 
weeks, the G-2, Lt. Col. Robert F. Evans, 
had a fairly accurate impression of enemy 
strength and dispositions. Counting sup- 
port and service troops, his figure of 
12,000 Germans in Aachen and the 
immediate vicinity was fairly accurate, 
even though attempts to halt the Ameri- 
can penetration north of Aachen had 
sapped considerable strength from the 
246th Division. Identifying this division 
and its neighbors correctly, Colonel Evans 
also ascertained most of the combat at- 
tachments to the 246th Division. These 
included a weak infantry battalion that 
formerly had belonged to the 275th Di- 
vision, a battalion of Luftwaffe ground 
troops, a machine gun fortress battalion, 
and a Landesschuetzen battalion. The 
local or "fortress" commander of Aachen, 
Colonel Evans correctly identified as Lt. 
Col. Maximilian Leyherr. Neither Evans 



13 Unless otherwise noted, the 1st Division 
story is based on official unit records and combat 
interviews. The records include a special ac- 
count, Report of Breaching the Siegfried Line 
and the Capture of Aachen, dated 7 November 
1944. A division history, Danger Forward (At- 
lanta, 1947), is primarily a collection of 
impressions by war correspondents, of little value 
for this study. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



287 



nor intelligence officers of neighboring 
units knew of German plans to commit the 
3d Panzer Grenadier and 11 6th Panzer 
Divisions; yet if events marched at the 
same pace as in recent days, the issue of 
Aachen might be settled before these re- 
serves arrived. 

The 18th Infantry Drives North 

In preparing for the attack northward 
against Verlautenheide, the 18th Infantry 
commander, Col. George A. Smith, Jr., 
turned to the lessons he and his men had 
learned in their first encounter with the 
West Wall in September. Special pillbox 
assault teams were organized and 
equipped with flame throwers, Bangalore 
torpedoes, beehives, and pole and satchel 
demolition charges. A battery of 155- 
mm. guns and a company of tank 
destroyers, both self-propelled, were pre- 
pared to spew direct fire against the 
pillboxes on the slope about Verlauten- 
heide. An air-ground liaison officer was 
to accompany each infantry battalion. 
Preceding the attack, eleven artillery bat- 
talions and a company of 4.2-inch chemical 
mortars were to fire an hour-long prepar- 
ation. The division's other two regiments 
and the 1 1 06th Engineers were to feign 
attack in their sectors. After daylight, a 
company of medium tanks was to join 
the infantry in the village. 

Linked with a clever use of the cloak of 
night, Colonel Smith's elaborate prepara- 
tions paid off, not only at Verlautenheide 
but against Crucifix Hill (Hill 239) and 
Ravels Hill (Hill 231) as well. Attacking 
before dawn on 8 October, a battalion 
commanded by Lt. Col. John Williams 
took full advantage of preliminary artillery 
fires and the darkness to gain Verlauten- 
heide against defenders who for the most 



part cringed in their foxholes or pillboxes 
until too late. Other than minor disor- 
ganization inherent in a night attack, only 
one platoon, which stirred up a hornet's 
nest of machine gun fire along the Eilen- 
dorf-Verlautenheide road, met any real 
difficulty. 

That afternoon a company of another 
battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Henry 
G. Leonard, Jr., followed preparation 
fires closely to overrun Crucifix Hill in an 
hour. 14 A giant crucifix atop the hill 
was demolished later in the afternoon, 
victim either of shellfire or of American 
infantrymen who thought the Germans 
had used it as an observation post. The 
next night, 9 October, two companies 
slipped through the darkness past the 
yawning apertures of enemy pillboxes to 
gain the crest of Ravels Hill without 
firing a shot. Even mop-up of eight 
pillboxes at dawn the next morning was 
accomplished without shooting. Unaware 
that the Americans had taken the hill, 
four Germans unwittingly arrived during 
the morning of 10 October with hot food 
for sixty-five men, a welcome change for 
the Americans from cold emergency 
rations. 

This was not to say that the 18th 
Infantry did not encounter serious fighting 
during the forty-eight hours it took to 
occupy the three objectives. Indeed, 
small-scale but persistent German counter- 
attacks began as early as dawn the first 
morning (8 October), then reached a 
zenith during the morning of 9 October. 



14 A driving force in the attack on Crucifix 
Hill was the company commander, Capt. Bobbie 
E. Brown. Though wounded three times, Cap- 
tain Brown personally led. the attack and knocked 
out three pillboxes himself. He subsequently 
received the Medal of Honor. 



288 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Since the enemy's 246th Division was 
absorbing punishment on two fronts, both 
from the 18th Infantry's northward push 
and from southward attacks by the XIX 
Corps, the Germans had a real problem 
in releasing troops for counterattack. A 
solution was possible only because the 
Americans' northward thrust was on a 
limited front. Shifting the boundary be- 
tween the 246th and 12th Divisions two 
miles to the west at Verlautenheide, Gen- 
eral Koechling transferred responsibility 
for most of the sector threatened by the 
1 8th Infantry to the 12th Division, hereto- 
fore untouched by the American attack. 15 

More damaging than the local counter- 
attacks was German shelling. Perhaps 
because both U.S. attacks to encircle 
Aachen were confined to a combined front 
measuring little more than five miles, the 
Germans could concentrate their artillery 
fire with deadly effectiveness. No sooner 
had Colonel Williams' infantry in Ver- 
lautenheide begun mop-up of pillboxes 
and buildings at daylight on the first 
morning than this shelling began. As 
riflemen left their foxholes to ferret the 
Germans from their hiding places, the 
shellfire took an inevitable toll. Shelling 
of open ground between Eilendorf and 
Verlautenheide prevented Colonel Leon- 
ard's battalion from reaching jump-off 
positions for the attack on Crucifix Hill 
until midafternoon of the first day. 
Neither were supporting tanks immune. 
Shying at the fire and maneuvering to 
avoid it, a company of tanks seeking to 
join the infantry in Verlautenheide lost 
six tanks to mines, panzerfausts, mud, 
and mechanical failure. 



15 LXXXI Corps, Kampf um Aachen. Unless 
otherwise noted, subsequent German material in 
this chapter is based upon the same source. 



After capture of Crucifix and Ravels 
Hills, both these exposed heights were 
subjected to round after round of German 
fire. Captured pillboxes on the crests 
represented the only cover worthy of the 
name. When two tank destroyers tried to 
climb Ravels Hill, the enemy scored direct 
hits on both. In Verlautenheide Colonel 
Williams' infantrymen lived in cellars, 
popping out to man their foxholes only as 
shelling temporarily diminished and Ger- 
man assault appeared imminent. Because 
of thick morning mists that persisted in 
the form of ground haze for three days, 
neither American planes nor counterbat- 
tery artillery fires could deal effectively 
with the German guns. 

Despite the shelling, the counterattacks, 
and the fact that the three battalions of 
the 1 8th Infantry were stretched thin, 
the regimental commander, Colonel Smith, 
succeeded in freeing two rifle companies 
to seize a fourth objective on 10 October. 
This was Haaren, a suburb of Aachen 
controlling the highway to Juelich be- 
tween Crucifix and Ravels Hills. The 
division commander, General Huebner, 
wanted Haaren because capturing it 
would cut one of two major supply routes 
left to the Germans in Aachen. Just as 
in the 18th Infantry's three other attacks, 
the infantry found seizure of this objective 
relatively easy; mop-up and defense 
proved the harder tasks. 

Occupation of Haaren underscored the 
success achieved during the preceding 
night against Ravels Hill. Because the 
position for making contact with the XIX 
Corps was at the base of Ravels Hill, the 
1 8th Infantry's offensive role in encircle- 
ment of Aachen was over. Yet the regi- 
ment's defensive role might be stretched; 
for the 30th Division, which was making 
the XIX Corps attack, had encountered 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



289 



unexpected resistance during the last three 
days. 

To General Huebner, a final sealing of 
the ring about Aachen nevertheless must 
have appeared little more than formality. 
On 10 October he ordered delivery of an 
ultimatum to the commander of the enemy 
garrison in Aachen. If the commander 
failed to capitulate unconditionally within 
twenty-four hours, the ultimatum warned, 
the Americans would pulverize the city 
with artillery and bombs, then seize the 
rubble by ground assault. Already troops 
of the 26th Infantry were jockeying for 
position in preparation for starting the 
attack against a jungle of factories lying 
between the city proper and Haaren. 

Full meaning of the capture of Ravels 
Hill was no more lost upon German 
commanders than upon General Huebner. 
Appealing for replacements, Field Marshal 
Model reported in the trite phraseology of 
the day that "the situation around Aachen 
has grown more critical." Unless re- 
placements arrived, Model noted, "con- 
tinued reverses will be unavoidable." 16 

Though making no promise of individ- 
ual replacements, the OB WEST com- 
mander, Rundstedt, took notice of the 
first arrivals of the 3d Panzer Grenadier 
and j j 6th Panzer Divisions in the Aachen 
sector on 10 October. On the same day 
he gave first official authorization for 
commitment of these two divisions under 
the / SS Panzer Corps. Yet several days 
still might elapse before the 18th Infantry 
or any part of the 1st Division encoun- 
tered these reserves, for to his authoriza- 
tion Rundstedt attached a proviso that 
the reserve divisions must not be com- 
mitted piecemeal but as closed units. In 

16 TWX, Rundstedt to Jodl, 1130, 11 Oct 44, 
relaying Msg, Model to Rundstedt, 1045, 10 Oct 
44, OB WEST KTB, Befehle und Meldungen. 



the light of this condition, the Army 
Group B commander, Field Marshal 
Model, saw no hope of a major counter- 
attack before 12 October. 

In the meantime, as these German 
reserves massed, as the ultimatum to the 
commander of Aachen expired, and as the 
26th Infantry began to attack the city, 
the 1 8th Infantry continued to hold thinly 
stretched positions at Verlautenheide and 
Haaren and atop Crucifix and Ravels 
Hills. Long days and nights in the line 
began to tell on the infantrymen, some- 
times with costly results. One night 
someone in a group laying antitank mines 
on Ravels Hill inadvertently set off one of 
the mines and precipitated a chain reac- 
tion that exploded twenty-two mines. 
Some thirty-three men were either killed 
or wounded. Another night a rifle com- 
pany commander guided a relief platoon 
from a different company toward his own 
defensive positions from the enemy side. 
Confusion and casualties resulted before he 
could convince his own men of his 
identity. Setting out on two occasions to 
contact the 30th Division to the north, 
patrols made virtually no headway. Pos- 
sibly no patrol could have accomplished 
the mission, and accidents like those with 
the mines and loss of direction are not 
uncommon; yet the fact remained that 
the men involved were nervous and tired. 
Even when not defending their foxholes 
or hugging the earth to escape shell frag- 
ments, they had to attack to clean out a 
multitude of pillboxes that dotted the 
landscape or man roadblocks on highways 
running on either side of Ravels Hill. 
Relieving these battalions for rest was out 
of the question in view of the impoverished 
state of General Huebner's reserve. 

The Germans missed a chance for suc- 
cess when they failed to detect the true 



290 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



condition of the 18th Infantry's defenses. 
Here was a likely spot for counterattack- 
ing to enlarge the pathway into Aachen, 
yet the Germans in preparing a counter- 
attack missed the spot by a few hundred 
yards. 

That the Germans might be preparing 
a big blow became apparent to the ist 
Division on 14 October upon receipt of an 
intelligence report noting that the 3d 
Panzer Grenadier Division was moving to 
the Aachen sector. Through the early 
daylight hours of 15 October, both the 
1 8th Infantry and its sister regiment, the 
1 6th Infantry, which defended between 
Verlautenheide and Stolberg, reported 
build-up of German infantry and armor in 
the vicinity of Verlautenheide. By 0830, 
despite repeated shelling of enemy con- 
centrations, reports indicating a pending 
attack persisted. An air strike by fighter- 
bombers at 0900 seemingly failed to deter 
German preparations. An hour later the 
Germans attacked. 

To the Americans, the thrust which 
followed was a powerful, well-prepared 
attack that shattered nerves at more than 
one echelon of command. In reality, the 
thrust was a hasty compromise growing 
out of events that had begun as early as 
five days before on 10 October. On that 
day, in cognizance of indications that 
Aachen might be sealed off before the 3d 
Panzer Grenadier and 116th Panzer Di- 
visions arrived in entirety, Field Marshal 
Model at Army Group B authorized piece- 
meal employment of first arrivals of the 
116th Panzer Division. 11 Although this 
measure was to be used only in event of 
dire emergency threatening loss of all 
access to Aachen, German commanders 



17 TWX, A Gp B to Seventh Army, 1145, 10 
Oct 44, A Gp B, Operationsbejehle. 



on the ground had not far to look during 
these hectic days to find plenty of dire 
emergencies. Less than twenty-four hours 
after receipt of Model's authorization, the 
Seventh Army's General Brandenberger 
directed commitment of a regiment of the 
panzer division against the XIX U.S. 
Corps. 

This precedent established, Branden- 
berger had no real trouble convincing his 
superiors that another emergency existed 
at Verlautenheide, justifying commitment 
there of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division. 
A comprehensive plan for a co-ordinated 
counterattack thus became infected with 
the fungus of counterattack by install- 
ments that quickly ate away what could 
have been an effective reserve force. 
German counterattacks now had no genu- 
ine relationship other than a common goal 
of widening the corridor into Aachen. 

Subordinated directly to the Seventh 
Army rather than the LXXXI Corps, the 
3d Panzer Grenadier Division concen- 
trated upon a first objective of high 
ground south and southwest of Verlauten- 
heide, lying generally between that village 
and Eilendorf. From there the division 
commander, Generalmajor Walter Den- 
kert, intended to swing northwest against 
Crucifix Hill (Hill 2 39). 18 

General Denkert directed his 2gth Pan- 
zer Grenadier Regiment to make the main 
effort on the north from the skirt of a 
forest east of Verlautenheide. With a 
current strength of from ten to fifteen 
Tiger tanks, the bulk of the 506th Tank 
Battalion was to support the main effort. 



18 The German side of this action is based 
upon MS # A-979, Die 3. Panzer-Grenadier- 
Division in der Schlacht von Aachen (Denkert). 
Basic facts are corroborated by contemporary 
German records. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



291 



Anchoring a left (south) flank on the 
Aachen-Dueren railroad east of Eilendorf, 
the 8th Panzer Grenadier Regiment was 
to launch a coincident subsidiary attack. 

From the American viewpoint, the two 
German thrusts were to strike near the 
boundary between the 18th and 16th 
Regiments south of Verlautenheide. Here 
a 2,000-yard front covering the high 
ground between Verlautenheide and Eil- 
endorf was held by a battalion of the 
1 6th Infantry commanded by Lt. Col. 
Joe Dawson. The German thrusts were 
to converge not against the weakened i8th 
Infantry but against the extreme left wing 
of the 1 6th Infantry. 

Upon leaving the woods line that rep- 
resented the line of departure, both Ger- 
man columns had to cross a flat open 
meadow before reaching the base of the 
high ground held by Colonel Dawson's 
battalion. Forewarned by reports of 
enemy assembly, artillery of both the ist 
Division and the VII Corps was ready. 
Using prearranged fires, six field artillery 
battalions were able to concentrate their 
fire within six minutes of the first warn- 
ing. Watching the attack from the 
woods line, the German commander, Gen- 
eral Denkert, was impressed with the 
volume of American shellfire. "It was 
obvious," General Denkert noted later, 
"that an advance through this fire was 
impossible. It was equally impossible to 
feed the attack from the rear, to move up 
reserves or ammunition." 

General Denkert had no way of know- 
ing that his attack actually was much 
closer to success than he believed. 
Though the defensive artillery fires stopped 
the bulk of his infantry, the Tiger tanks 
ploughed through to pour direct fire into 
American foxholes. The men said some 
of the tanks were captured Shermans and 



that one still bore the unit markings of an 
American armored division. 19 

About noon, less than half an hour 
after the full fury of the attack hit, Colo- 
nel Dawson reported communications to 
his two left companies disrupted and the 
situation there "serious." The com- 
mander of one of the companies had 
called for artillery fire upon his own 
command post. "Put every gun you've 
got on it," he told his artillery observer. 
Only a short while later, a messenger 
arrived at Colonel Dawson's command 
post. The Germans, the messenger 
reported, were overrunning both com- 
panies. 20 

Possibly because he had so little con- 
crete knowledge of what was going on, 
the regimental commander, Col. Fred- 
erick W. Gibb, delayed committing his 
reserve, which consisted only of tanks and 
tank destroyers. A section each of light 
tanks and tank destroyers in position in 
the threatened sector had managed to 
make but one kill. Instead, Colonel 
Gibb called for air support and for what- 
ever assistance the i8th Infantry might 
provide. A report that the i8th In- 
fantry's right wing company had been 
overrun already had prompted the i8th 
Infantry commander, Colonel Smith, to 
send a company from Haaren to set the 
matter right. Finding the report errone- 
ous upon arrival at Verlautenheide in 
midafternoon, this company subsequently 
assumed defensive positions blocking a 
gap along the interregimental boundary. 
This was the only force Colonel Smith 
could spare. 

General Huebner wasted no time alert- 
ing the division reserve, the battalion of 
the 26th Infantry, and requesting the 

19 The 5th; possibly captured at Wallendorf. 

20 1 6th Inf S-3 Jnl, 15 Oct 44. 



292 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



corps commander, General Collins, to 
alert anything the 3d Armored Division 
might spare. But like Colonel Gibb, Gen- 
eral Huebner delayed committing the re- 
serve until he could know more specifically 
the extent of the enemy attack. 

In the meantime, both corps and divi- 
sion artillery continued to pound the 
German attack. Seven battalions, plus 
some of the 3d Armored Division's 
artillery, participated. Although the situ- 
ation remained obscure on Colonel Daw- 
son's left wing, the attack by the 8th 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment, which hit a 
company on the right wing, definitely 
collapsed in the face of this fire and after 
loss of two out of three supporting 
tanks. The situation there never reached 
critical proportions. 

Arrival of air support in time to save 
the day appeared doubtful until at 1340 
the 30th Division announced release of a 
squadron which already had dispensed 
most of its bombs but which still had 
plenty of strafing ammunition. Ten min- 
utes later P-47's of the 48th Group's 
49 2d Squadron led by Capt. George W. 
Huling, Jr., were over the 16th Infantry's 
lines. Two 500-pound general-purpose 
bombs that the squadron still had the 
pilots dropped "in the midst" of a concen- 
tration of some thirty German vehicles. 
Then they strafed. "They came in about 
25 feet from our front lines," an ecstatic 
1st Division G— 3 later reported, "and 
strafed the hell out of the enemy and 
came down so low they could tell the 
difference between the uniforms." It 
was a "beautiful job." So impressed by 
the performance was the corps com- 
mander, General Collins, that he sought 
the number of the squadron in order to 
commend the pilots. 21 

Though the air strike alone hardly 



could be credited with stopping the 3d 
Panzer Grenadier Division's attack, it 
effectively crowned the achievements of 
the artillery. The fire fight went on at 
close quarters for the rest of the day, but 
no real penetration developed. As the 
situation cleared, General Huebner held 
on to his reserve. A battalion of tanks 
from the 3d Armored Division, made avail- 
able at the height of the fighting, 
likewise remained uncommitted. 

Lack of persistence certainly was no 
failing of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Divi- 
sion. Despite the sound defeat during 
the afternoon of 15 October, the Germans 
came back before daylight the next morn- 
ing. By the light of flares, Colonel 
Dawson's left unit, Company G, spotted 
a company of infantry and two tanks as 
they reached the very brink of the defen- 
sive position. Quickly overrunning two 
squads, the Germans poured through. 
Confusion reigned. "Nobody knew what 
the situation was," someone said later, 
"because the enemy was in front and on 
both sides of you." Soon thereafter an- 
other German company and three tanks 
struck the adjacent unit as well. This 
company commander resorted to the 
stratagem of calling down artillery fire 
on his own positions. His men later 
counted some forty enemy dead. 

The main threat remained on the left 
in the sector of Company G. So con- 
cerned was General. Huebner about the 
situation there that he released a company 
of his reserve battalion to back up the 
threatened sector and directed the rest of 
the reserve to move to an assembly area 
close behind the line. 

Though the reserve stood by, it never 

21 See Msg, sub: Mission Y-21-r, FUSA G-3 
file, Oct 44, and IX FC and IX TAC Unit His- 
tory, Oct 44. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



293 



entered the fight. Aided by mortar and 
artillery support that was possible because 
communications remained constant, Colo- 
nel Dawson's infantry alone proved equal 
to the occasion. Though Germans were 
all among the foxholes and the enemy 
tanks perched little more than twenty-five 
yards away to pump fire into the holes, 
the men held their positions. Had it been 
daylight, the sight of some withdrawing 
might have infected others; as it was, the 
men stayed, basically unaware of what 
the over-all situation was. Out of little 
clumps of resistance and individual hero- 
ism they fashioned a sturdy phalanx. 

Colonel Dawson tried to institute a 
fire plan whereby his men were to burrow 
deep in their holes while he called down 
a curtain of shellfire on and behind the 
enemy tanks. Coincidentally, a platoon 
of tank destroyers was to engage the 
Germans frontally. "The whole thing," 
Colonel Dawson said, "is to knock them 
out or make them fight." 22 Whether 
this did the job — indeed, whether the plan 
worked at all in the maelstrom of confu- 
sion — went unrecorded. What mattered 
was that soon after dawn the German 
tanks fell back under concealment of / a 
heavy ground haze. The threatened 
rifle company soon thereafter cleared the 
last enemy from the positions. 

At intervals throughout 16 October the 
3d Panzer Grenadier Division continued 
to probe this weakened sector but usually 
with small units of infantry supported by 
two or three tanks. The Germans had 
lost their chance to break through, 
thwarted by a rifle company that would 
not recognize when it was beaten. 

The preponderance of losses incurred 
thus far by the 1st Division had occurred 



22 1 6th Inf S-3 Jnl, 15-16 Oct 44. 



during the first two days while the 18th 
Infantry was pushing northward and dur- 
ing 15 and 16 October while the left wing 
of the 1 6th Infantry was repulsing these 
enemy thrusts. During the first two days 
the division incurred 360 casualties of all 
types; during the latter two, 178. 
Through 16 October the ist Division had 
lost about 800 men, a relatively low 
figure that reflected the defensive nature 
of much of the fighting. 23 

On the German side, severe losses 
prompted abandonment of the 3d Panzer 
Grenadier Division's fruitless counterat- 
tack until the division could regroup. 24 
In but two days of fighting, this division 
had lost about one third of its combat 
effectives. 25 Men of the 16th Infantry 
could attest to these losses; for in front 
of the left company alone they counted 
250 dead, "a figure," the G-3 noted, 
"unprecedented in the division's history." 
That went a long way toward explaining 
why the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division 
never again came close to breaking the ist 
Division's defensive arc. 

The 30th Division Strikes South 

Thus had the ist Division seized and 
then protected its assigned objectives dur- 
ing the first nine days of the operation to 
encircle Aachen. In the meantime, far- 
ther north, the 30th Division of the XIX 
Corps had been executing the other part 
of the joint maneuver. 

Having turned southward from the 
West Wall penetration in high spirits on 
7 October, the 30th Division commander, 
General Hobbs, had hoped by nightfall 

23 Casualty figures from VII Corps AAR, Oct 
44. 

24 OB WEST KTB, 16 Oct 44. 

25 LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div. 



294 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



the next day to be sitting tight on his final 
objective, awaiting arrival of ist Division 
troops. So optimistic was General Hobbs 
that early on 8 October he told his corps 
commander that "the job is finished as far 
as this division is concerned . . . ." He 
added that he hoped the First Army 
commander would appreciate "what this 
division has done." 26 

As General Hobbs was to learn to his 
chagrin, he had allowed the easy success 
of the day before, when his troops had 
plunged a third of the distance to the 
link-up objective of Wuerselen, to color 
his thinking. In the nine days that fol- 
lowed, the three-mile distance remaining 
before the job actually was completed 
was to become a route bathed in blood 
and frustration. 

Unlike the i8th Infantry, the 30th 
Division had no problem at first with 
enemy pillboxes, for the bulk of the troops 
already were behind the West Wall. 
Only the right wing regiment in the west 
was to encounter pillboxes at the start, 
and these might be rolled up from a flank. 
Yet this did not mean that the route of 
advance was not replete with obstacles. 
This region to the north and northeast of 
Aachen is highly urbanized coal mining 
country, honeycombed with slag piles, 
mine shafts, and villages that might be 
adapted readily to defense. 

General Hobbs could count on no direct 
assistance from other divisions of the XIX 



20 30th Div G-3 Jnl file, 7-9 Oct 44. The 
telephone journals in this file and others for this 
period are especially valuable. Unless otherwise 
noted, the 30th Division story is from these 
journals, from other official unit records of the 
division and the XIX Corps, from several note- 
worthy combat interviews, and from the divi- 
sion's unofficial unit history, Hewitt, Workhorse 
of the Western Front. The XIX Corps G-2 
reports for this period are particularly well done. 



Corps. Already occupied in protecting 
the elongated corps north flank west of 
the West Wall, the 29th Division had had 
to stretch its resources to send the 1 1 6th 
Infantry to contain Germans holding out 
northwest of Aachen in order to free the 
30th Division's third regiment from that 
task to join the southward drive. This 
regiment, the 120th Infantry, com- 
manded by Col. Branner P. Purdue, 27 
General Hobbs thrust into the center of 
his sector to attack with his other two 
regiments on 8 October. The remaining 
division, the 2d Armored, still held the 
northern and eastern flanks of the West 
Wall bridgehead. General Corlett hesi- 
tated to weaken this defense, because 
German penetration of this bridgehead 
might cut off the 30th Division's south- 
ward drive at its base. 

Although indications existed that the 
30th Division already had neutralized all 
local German reserves, General Hobbs 
dared not concentrate on his southward 
drive to the exclusion of protecting a left 
(east) flank that would stretch steadily as 
his troops moved south'. To shield his 
east flank, he directed the 1 1 7th Infantry 
(Colonel Johnson) to seize high ground in 
the vicinity of Mariadorf, about two miles 
southeast of Alsdorf, the town which the 
regiment had taken with ease on 7 Octo- 
ber. In addition, he told the 120th 
Infantry (Colonel Purdue) to take the 
high ground northeast of Wuerselen. 

General Hobbs also told Colonel Pur- 
due to capture high ground east of 
Wuerselen, between that town and 
Broichweiden, in order to assure firm 
control of an arterial highway running 
diagonally across the 30th Division's zone 

27 The previous commander, Colonel Birks, 
had left on 6 October to become assistant division 
commander of the 9th Division. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



295 



from Aachen northeast toward Juelich. 
This maneuver also was to set the stage 
for taking Wuerselen. The division's 
third regiment, the 1 1 gth Infantry ( Colo- 
nel Sutherland), was to take North 
Wuerselen, little more than a mile (2,000 
yards) from Ravels Hill, northernmost 1st 
Division objective, and protect the divi- 
sion's right (west) flank. Guarding the 
west flank appeared no major assignment, 
because the flank would rest on the Wurm 
River and Germans west of the Wurm 
seemed a sedentary lot. 

Having dealt harshly with the enemy's 
4gth and 183d Divisions, General Hobbs 
expected now to encounter primarily por- 
tions of the 246th Division, which was 
specifically responsible for defending 
Aachen. General Hobbs also might ex- 
pect to meet diverse contingents of the 
12th Division, that might be spared from 
defense about Stolberg and possibly a 
panzer brigade which the XIX Corps 
G—2 persistently warned was in reserve a 
few miles to the east. Otherwise, the 
route to Wuerselen seemed clear, unless 
the enemy should rush in mobile reserves 
from other sectors or refitted units from 
deep behind the front. Should the Ger- 
mans commit major reserves, the most 
likely spot was against the division's east- 
ern and southeastern flanks. 

The XIX Corps G-2, Colonel Piatt, 
had displayed his usual prescience, for 
this was about the sum of things from the 
German viewpoint. Even as the 30th 
Division planned renewal of the south- 
ward drive, the panzer brigade which 
Colonel Piatt had warned against, the 
1 08th, and a unit rushed from another 
sector, Mobile Regiment von Fritzschen, 
were preparing to strike into the 30th 
Division's east flank. Reserves from deep 
behind the front in the form of the 11 6th 



Panzer and 3d Panzer Grenadier Divisions 
were on the way. 

That the Germans soon might strike 
was not apparent on 8 October on the 
west and in the center of the 30th Divi- 
sion's sector. Closely following the val- 
ley of the Wurm, Colonel Sutherland's 
1 1 9th Infantry picked a way through 
mined streets of a village on the east bank 
of the Wurm opposite Kerkrade, then 
pushed a mile and a half to another 
village. Advancing in the center toward 
objectives at Wuerselen and Broichweiden, 
Colonel Purdue's 120th Infantry soon se- 
cured two hamlets despite thick mine fields 
covered by small arms and antitank fire. 

With Colonel Johnson's 1 1 7th Infantry 
on the east the situation at first was much 
the same. Moving southeast out of Als- 
dorf toward Mariadorf and the Aachen- 
Juelich highway, the regiment found 
advantage in a thick morning mist. The 
attack progressed steadily until about 
0930 when leading platoons began to 
cross a railroad a few hundred yards west 
of Mariadorf. Germans from Mobile Reg- 
iment von Fritzschen suddenly emerged 
from Mariadorf behind a curtain of small 
arms and artillery fire. They quickly 
sliced off a leading platoon commanded by 
Lieutenant Borton, who had played a 
prominent role in the crossing of the 
Wurm at the start of the West Wall at- 
tack. Lieutenant Borton and twenty-six 
of his men were either killed or captured. 
German guns disabled three out of four 
supporting American tanks. Another pla- 
toon that tried to advance even after the 
Germans struck also was cut off; only six 
men ever made their way back. So 
costly was the fight that when one of the 
leading companies eventually retired west 
of the railroad, only thirty-three men 
were on hand. 



296 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Mobile Regiment von Fritzschen as it 
appeared against the 117th Infantry on 8 
October was an effective force. In addi- 
tion to two organic infantry battalions, 
the regiment possessed several attach- 
ments, including the eleven tanks available 
on this date in the 108th Panzer Brigade, 
which included the 506th Tank Battalion, 
twenty-two assault guns in three assault 
gun battalions, an engineer battalion, and 
a depleted battalion from the 246th Di- 
vision. 28 The mission of this force was 
to retake Alsdorf and thereby close a 
great gap in the line of the 4gth Division 
which the Americans had torn the day 
before in occupying Alsdorf. 29 

The German corps commander, General 
Koechling, had intended that Regiment 
von Fritzschen would attack before dawn 
on 8 October in order to cross an expanse 
of open ground between Mariadorf and 
Alsdorf before the Americans could bring 
observed artillery fires to bear. Instead, 
because of air attacks and fuel shortages, 
the regiment failed to reach Mariadorf 
until dawn. By the time the regiment 
was ready to attack the 1 1 7th Infantry's 
drive had reached the railroad west of 
Mariadorf. No matter how severe the 
casualties on the American side, German 
losses were greater. American artillery 
fire was particularly disturbing, because 
by the time the Germans struck, morning 
mists had begun to lift. 

This charge west of Mariadorf was but 
half of Regiment von Fritzschen'?, attack. 
At the same time a force of equal size 

28 Order, 49th Div to Regt von Fritzschen, 8 
Oct 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div. 

29 AAR concerning opns of Regt von Fritz- 
schen on 8 Oct 44, 49th Div to LXXXI Corps, 
10 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der 
Div. Details of this action on 8 October are 
available in Heichler, The Germans Opposite 
XIX Corps. 



drove toward Alsdorf via the village of 
Schaufenberg. This attack, too, might 
have bogged down in the face of Ameri- 
can shelling had not the buildings of 
Schaufenberg provided a partial oasis. 
From there, some of the tanks and infan- 
try gradually fought their way into 
Alsdorf, a move that posed the possibility 
of trapping the bulk of the 1 1 7th Infantry 
southeast of the town. 

In Alsdorf, men manning regimental 
and battalion command posts rallied to 
the defense. Though surrounded, men in 
a battalion observation post under the 
personal leadership of their battalion 
commander, Colonel McDowell, held off 
the Germans with carbines and pistols. 

Roaming the winding streets of Alsdorf, 
attached tanks of the 743d Tank Battalion 
dealt the coup de grace to Regiment von 
Fritzschen's attack in less than an hour 
after the first Germans penetrated the 
town. The tankers knocked out three 
Mark IV's, while tank destroyers searched 
the streets the rest of the day for another 
which the crewmen christened The Re- 
luctant Dragon. Weaker now by about 
500 men, Regiment von Fritzschen shifted 
to defense. 

The counterattack had blunted the 
1 1 7th Infantry's offensive thrust effec- 
tively. Both the regimental commander, 
Colonel Johnson, and the division com- 
mander, General Hobbs, acted to reinforce 
the regiment at Alsdorf in event this was 
but an opening blow in a major German 
counteraction. Colonel Johnson author- 
ized a withdrawal from the railroad to 
the fringe of Alsdorf, while General Hobbs 
moved a neighboring battalion of the 
1 20th Infantry into a reinforcing position 
and solicited assistance from the nearest 
combat command of the 2d Armored Di- 
vision. The combat command alerted a 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



297 



medium tank company for possible com- 
mitment at Alsdorf. 

These measures taken, General Hobbs 
ordered resumption of the attack the next 
morning (9 October). This Colonel 
Johnson accomplished successfully at 
Schaufenberg, where a battalion routed 
remnants of Regiment von Fritzschen, but 
the bulk of the regiment could not ad- 
vance across the open ground toward 
Mariadorf. Evidence existed to indicate 
that the 1 1 7th Infantry's long period of 
attack without rest — a total now of more 
than a week — had begun to tell. About 
noon General Hobbs approved a request 
from Colonel Johnson to defend the 
division's east flank from Schaufenberg 
and Alsdorf rather than from the original 
objective of Mariadorf. 

Though the 1 1 7 th Infantry made no 
major gains on 9 October, Colonel John- 
son could note with relief that the Ger- 
mans had not renewed their counterattack 
against his regiment. The fact was that 
opening of the VII Corps drive northward 
against Verlautenheide the day before 
had diverted German attention. Upon 
the instigation of Field Marshal Model, an 
infantry battalion, an engineer battalion 
and the 108th Panzer Brigade (including 
the 506th Tank Battalion) had been de- 
tached from Regiment von Fritzschen late 
on 8 October. This force, reinforced by 
the 404th Infantry Regiment, now re- 
turned to its parent 246th Division, was 
to launch a new thrust farther southwest 
in the direction of Bardenberg, northwest 
of Wuerselen, presumably to thwart what 
looked like impending juncture of the two 
American drives. 30 



30 Tel Conv, Seventh Army to LXXXI Corps, 
1 1 00, 8 Oct 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfver- 
lauf; Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs, 8 Oct 44, 
LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. 



As events developed, the 404th Regi- 
ment and the 108th Panzer Brigade had 
a hard time getting a thrust going on 9 
October because every attempt ran into a 
prior American attack. Both at Euchen 
and Birk, two villages astride the route to 
Bardenberg, the Germans encountered 
battalions of the 120th Infantry which 
were driving toward that regiment's final 
objective, high ground near Wuerselen. 
Small-scale counterattacks and continuing 
pressure denied the Americans both 
Euchen and Birk, but the German time- 
table for the push to Bardenberg was 
seriously upset. Not until after dark did 
the Germans get started on the final leg 
of their journey. 

In passing through Euchen and Birk, 
the 1 08th Panzer Brigade had cut directly 
across the front of the 120th Infantry. 
In pushing on to Bardenberg, the brigade 
was to encounter the 30th Division's 
right wing regiment, the 1 1 gth Infantry. 
During the day of 9 October this regiment 
had been experiencing bountiful success 
in a drive aimed at North Wuerselen. 
Moving against halfhearted resistance 
from demoralized remnants of the 4gih 
Division, two battalions of Colonel Suther- 
land's regiment had occupied Bardenberg 
in late afternoon. With a last burst of 
energy before night set in, both battalions 
had charged southeast more than a mile 
into North Wuerselen. Here they stood 
little more than 2,000 yards short of the 
1 8th Infantry's objective of Ravels Hill 
( Hill 231). Closing this gap looked like 
little more than a matter of mop-up and 
patrols. 

Although the Germans had not known 
of this last advance when they had 
planned their thrust against Bardenberg, 
the chance timing of the attack made 
them appear Argus-eyed and omniscient. 



298 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



By striking when and where they did, 
they made it hurt. 

When the two battalions of the 1 1 gth 
Infantry moved into North Wuerselen, 
they left behind to protect their line of 
communications at Bardenberg an under- 
strength company commanded by Capt. 
Ross Y. Simmons. Captain Simmons put 
the bulk of his troops about a roadblock 
on the eastern edge of the village astride 
the highway leading east to Birk and 
Euchen. Not long after nightfall a covey 
of half-tracks spouting fire from 20-mm. 
antiaircraft guns struck this roadblock. 
No sooner had the Americans beaten back 
the half-tracks when a larger portion of 
the 1 08th Panzer Brigade estimated at 
five tanks and 300 infantry attacked with 
fury. Captain Simmons and his men 
could not hold. The panzer brigade 
poured through into Bardenberg. 

The portent of the German success 
at Bardenberg was not hard to see. 
Whether the enemy had strength enough 
to continue northward and cut off the 
XIX Corps West Wall penetration at its 
base was conjectural, but by taking 
Bardenberg he already had severed com- 
munications to the main body of the 
1 1 9th Infantry in North Wuerselen. 

The regimental commander, Colonel 
Sutherland, alerted his service company 
and regimental headquarters personnel for 
possible line duty and ordered his reserve 
battalion under Colonel Cox to retake 
Bardenberg from the north. Though one 
of Colonel Cox's companies got into action 
quickly, the Germans in Bardenberg were 
not to be pushed around. The advance 
carried no farther than a church in the 
northeastern part of the village. 

Tension that prevailed through the 
night was relieved somewhat early the 
next morning, 10 October, by a report 



from the 120th Infantry. Having tried 
without success the day before to capture 
the Birk crossroads, a battalion of the 
1 20th Infantry moved by stealth at 0530 
and literally caught the Germans in Birk 
asleep at their posts. The battalion fired 
only one shot, that by accident. This 
lack of vigilance at a strategic point con- 
trolling the only road by which the enemy 
in Bardenberg might be supplied and 
reinforced helped convince General Hobbs 
and his regimental commanders that the 
108th Panzer Brigade had no real knowl- 
edge of what an advantageous point 
d'appui it held there. When the Germans 
virtually ignored the main body of the 
1 1 9th Infantry in North Wuerselen until 
late in the day on 10 October, this belief 
was strengthened. 

That capture of the Birk crossroads had 
imperiled the 108th Panzer Brigade in 
Bardenberg hardly was apparent when 
Colonel Cox's battalion of the 1 1 9th 
Infantry renewed the attack to clear the 
village soon after daylight on 10 October. 
The Germans fought back intensely, their 
tanks hidden in gardens and behind 
houses, the cellars turned into imitation 
pillboxes, An estimated ten to twenty 
half-tracks mounting the pernicious multi- 
barrel 20-mm. antiaircraft gun formed a 
protective screen that thwarted all at- 
tempts at infiltration. As darkness ap- 
proached, Colonel Cox could point to 
little ground gained; only in the knowl- 
edge that the attack was making inroads 
on enemy strength was there consolation. 
During the day, for example, at Barden- 
berg, North Wuerselen, and Birk, 30th 
Division troops and artillery had knocked 
out twelve German tanks. Ingenious 
soldiers of the 120th Infantry had de- 
stroyed one with a captured Puppchen, 
a two-wheeled bazooka. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



299 



At nightfall Colonel SutherlanH reluc- 
tantly ordered withdrawal from Barden- 
berg to permit the artillery to pummel the 
enemy through the night without concern 
for friendly troops. In the meantime 
General Hobbs had become impatient to 
reopen the line of communications to the 
main body of the regiment at North 
Wuerselen so he could get on with the 
job of linking with the ist Division. He 
decided to commit a fresh unit, the reserve 
battalion of the 120th Infantry. 

Early on 1 1 October this battalion 
moved into Bardenberg against virtually 
no opposition. Not until reaching the 
southern half of the village did the battal- 
ion meet the grenadiers of the 108th 
Panzer Brigade with their ubiquitous 
tanks and half-tracks. Here the battle 
was met, but the attrition of the preceding 
day and night and the commitment of a 
fresh American battalion had done the 
trick. The battalion commander himself, 
Maj. Howard Greer, made a sizable 
contribution in other than his command 
role by personally knocking out two 
tanks with a bazooka. The total bag of 
enemy armor was six tanks and sixteen 
half-tracks. Though wounded, a squad 
leader, S. Sgt. Jack J. Pendleton, ensured 
the advance of his company by deliber- 
ately drawing the fire of an enemy ma- 
chine gun. He gave his life in the 
process. 31 

As the fight progressed in Bardenberg, 
expeditious use of artillery on other parts 
of the 30th Division front, the effect of 
the blocking position of the 1 20th Infantry 
at the Birk crossroads, and the action of 
four squadrons of IX Tactical Air Com- 



31 Sergeant Pendleton was awarded the Medal 
of Honor posthumously. Major Greer received 
the Distinguished Service Cross. 



mand fighter-bombers prevented the 
Germans from sending help. Clearing 
weather enabled planes to operate for the 
first time in three days. By last light on 
1 1 October both Bardenberg and the 
route to North Wuerselen were clear. 

Commitment of the 120th Infantry's 
reserve battalion in Bardenberg absorbed 
the last infantry unit available in the 30th 
Division. This worried the division com- 
mander, General Hobbs, for reports of 
continued German build-up with likeli- 
hood of a large-scale thrust from east or 
southeast continued to come in. A 
worrisome but ineffective visit by the 
Luftwaffe added to General Hobbs's con- 
cern; attention from the long-dormant 
Luftwaffe had been received with such 
increasing frequency of late that one 
hardly could miss the importance the 
Germans attached to this sector. 32 Fur- 
thermore, one of the reports General 
Hobbs received indicated that the 11 6th 
Panzer Division might be arriving soon. 

Under these conditions, Hobbs believed 
that to continue his attack eastward and 
southeastward into the teeth of what 
might develop into a major enemy blow 
had the makings of disaster. Since both 
the 1 1 7th Infantry near Alsdorf and the 
1 20th Infantry near Euchen now occupied 
stanch defensive positions, he decided to 
forego further attempts to expand his left 
flank. He told these units to hold in place 
where they might be ready for any eventu- 
ality. Until German intentions were 
clear, he would confine offensive efforts to 
capture of Wuerselen in order to accom- 
plish the primary mission of closing the 
gap in the circle about Aachen. 

32 On 9 October Field Marshal von Rundstedt 
said the greatest danger to the entire Western 
Front was presently at Aachen. OB WEST 
KTB, 9 Oct 44. 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




German Boy weeps over the Jew posses- 
sions saved from his home outside Aachen. 



Viewed from the German side. General 
Hobbs's concern was not without founda- 
tion, though urgency occasioned by con- 
tinuing American successes might prompt 
dissipation of incoming German strength. 
Late on n October the first of the ii&ih 
Panzer Division's regimental combat 
teams, composed primarily of the 6otk 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment, had arrived. 
On the same day, the LXXXI Corps 
was reinforced further by arrival of a 
Karnpfgruppe Diefenthal, a hybrid collec- 
tion of survivors of two defunct SS panzer 
divisions 3,1 in strength of about two 
battalions. Also arriving on 1 1 October, 
headquarters of the / SS Panzer Corps 
(Keppler) at 2100 assumed command of 
the northern portion of the LXXXl Corps 
front. 

Faced with the toBth Panzer Brigade's 

M ut and 12th SS Pz Divisions. 



failure at Bardenberg and with loss of 
North Wuerselen, the Seventh Army com- 
mander. General Brandenberger, deemed 
this emergency serious enough to justify 
use of Field Marshal Model's recent au- 
thorization to employ the ii6lh Panzer 
Division as it arrived. Reinforcing the 
60th Panzer Grenadier Regiment with the 
main body of Karnpfgruppe Diefenlhal, 
remnants of the loBlh Panzer Brigade, 
and two assault gun units possessing a 
total of thirty assault guns and howitzers, 
Brandenberger directed an attack early on 
12 October. The mission was to push 
back the XIX Corps to a line Bardenberg- 
Euchen, that is, to widen and defend the 
corridor into Aachen. 34 This was a far 
cry from original German intentions of 
using the 116th Panzer and 3d Panzer 
Grenadier Divisions in a concerted coun- 
terattack to wipe out the entire West Wall 
penetration north of Aachen; indeed, com- 
mitment of the 60th Panzer Grenadier 
Regiment was the precedent which four 
days later was to lead to similar piecemeal 
use of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division 
near Vcrlautenheide. 

In line with the decision to maintain a 
static front except at Wuerselen, General 
Hobbs directed that the right wing of the 
1 20th Infantry first was to seize high 
ground just northeast of the town. 
Thereupon, both the 119th and 120th 
Infantry Regiments were to reduce 
Wuerselen. This was the agenda for 12 
October on the American side. 

As events developed on 1 2 October, the 
30th Division could not accomplish even 
the advance of little more than a mile 
from the Birk crossroads to the high 
ground northeast of Wuerselen. Every 
unit had to turn to the defensive, for at 

"TWX, Seventh Army lo A Gp B, 1315. 11 
Oct 44, A Gp B, Operalionsbefekte. 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



301 



almost every point the front blazed. Ap- 
parently the Germans during the night had 
directed that the counterattack by the 
6oth Panzer Grenadier Regiment be rein- 
forced by local stabs all along the line. 

The fight began just after dawn at Birk 
when a battalion of the 246th Division 
counterattacked in conjunction with about 
ten tanks under the 506th Tank Battalion. 
A three-hour fight ensued. At first, the 
battalion of the 120th Infantry at the 
crossroads had but one tank, that com- 
manded by S. Sgt. Melvin H. Bieber. 
Engaging a brace of the German tanks 
simultaneously, Sergeant Bieber and his 
crew forced the enemy to abandon one 
tank and knocked out the other after 
twelve hits. As an early morning fog be- 
gan to lift, other Shermans of Sergeant 
Bieber's company arrived. Together with 
supporting artillery, they accounted for 
five more of the enemy tanks. 35 

The situation appeared grim at one 
spot in the 120th Infantry's line when a 
rifle company lost all four attached 
57-mm. antitank guns and when enemy 
shellfire knocked out the artillery observer 
and wounded another who tried to take 
his place. At last the battalion's artillery 
liaison officer, Capt. Michael S. Bouchlas, 
made his way forward. Up to this time 
friendly artillery had been firing spas- 
modically, sometimes even falling short. 
After Captain Bouchlas miraculously 
threaded his way through shellfire to the 
observation post, the picture changed. 
Within a half hour the threat was over. 
By 1030 the regimental commander, 
Colonel Purdue, could report the situation 
under control. "I never did see men 
going like these have been going," Colonel 



35 Sergeant Bieber subsequently received the 
DSC. 



Purdue reported ecstatically. "We are as 
strong as we can be . . . ." 36 

Another fight developed as a meeting 
engagement southeast of Bardenberg when 
Colonel Cox's battalion of the 1 1 9th In- 
fantry moved to strengthen the bulk of 
that regiment in North Wuerselen. Aided 
by artillery fire, Colonel Cox quickly 
drove off the Germans, but identification 
of prisoners promoted anxiety. Colonel 
Cox had met a battalion of the 60th 
Panzer Grenadier Regiment. General 
Hobbs's fears about arrival of the 11 6th 
Panzer Division apparently had material- 
ized. Another identification near night- 
fall of that division's Panzer Reconnais- 
sance Battalion underscored the concern. 

At North Wuerselen, about 200 infan- 
try supported by eight tanks and a few 
assault guns struck the main body of the 
1 1 9th Infantry. After destroying five 
tanks and an assault gun, the 1 1 9th In- 
fantry beat off this attack with celerity; 
but here too identification of prisoners 
nurtured apprehension. Here the Ger- 
man infantry was SS-Battalion Rink, that 
part of Kampfgruppe Diefenthal which in 
happier days had belonged to the 1st SS 
Panzer Division (Leibstandarte Adolf Hit- 
ler). To General Hobbs and his anxious 
staff, this posed the possibility that the 
entire 1st SS Panzer Division either had 
arrived or was on the way. 

Both General Hobbs and the XIX 
Corps commander, General Corlett, were 
frankly worried. They talked in terms of 
another Mortain and of commandeering 
antiaircraft, artillery, and service troops to 
back up the line. "If the 11 6th Panzer 
and Adolf Hitler [1st SS Panzer] are in 
there," General Corlett said, "this is one 
of the decisive battles of the war." 37 

36 30th Div G-3 Jnl, 12 Oct 44. 

37 Ibid. 



302 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



While anxiety stimulated by these iden- 
tifications remained, the 30th Division by 
noon of 12 October had contained every 
German thrust. The infantrymen were 
quick to transfer much of the credit to 
their supporting artillery and to fourteen 
squadrons of fighter-bombers that droned 
about the front all day like reckless but 
disciplined wasps. Sparkling weather 
gave both artillery and planes a clear 
field. At one time the planes attacked a 
concentration of a reported forty enemy 
tanks; they left eighteen of them, ground 
observers said, in flames. "The Germans 
are nibbling and pushing," General Hobbs 
reported in midafternoon, "but no 
general attack." 38 Everything was un- 
der control or — as General Hobbs put 
it — his men had "their tails over the 
dashboard." 

The First Army commander, General 
Hodges, was less sanguine. Even should 
the 30th Division continue to defend 
successfully and even should the fight fail 
to develop in the proportions Generals 
Corlett and Hobbs feared, the persistent 
problem of closing the circle about 
Aachen still would remain. Less visibly 
perturbed about German potentialities 
than his two subordinates, General Hodges 
insisted that they get going again on this 
primary task. "We have to close that 
gap," he told General Corlett; "it will 
have to be done somehow." 39 

In turn, General Hobbs pleaded for 
assistance. After almost two weeks of 
fighting, including the first set attack 
against the West Wall, his men were worn 
out, their numbers depleted. Since the 
start of the West Wall attack on 2 Octo- 
ber, the 30th Division had incurred 2,020 
casualties, most of them hard-to-replace 

38 Ibid 

39 XIX Corps G-3 Jnl, 12 Oct 44. 



riflemen. Yet the First Army could pro- 
vide little help other than to place the 
separate 99th Infantry Battalion (Maj. 
Harold D. Hansen) in XIX Corps reserve 
and to assume control over a combat com- 
mand from the relatively inactive V Corps 
front in order to create an Army reserve. 
If the 30th Division was to be reinforced, 
General Corlett would have to do it by 
shuffling his own units. 

Though General Corlett hesitated to 
weaken the northeastern and eastern de- 
fensive arcs of the West Wall bridgehead, 
he nevertheless agreed to give General 
Hobbs a battalion of the 2d Armored 
Division's medium tanks. In addition, by 
assigning the 30th Division a battalion of 
corps engineers, he relieved the 1 1 gth 
Infantry of responsibility for protecting 
the division's right flank along the Wurm 
River. By putting another corps en- 
gineer unit, the 1 1 04th Engineer Combat 
Group (Lt. Col. Hugh W. Cotton), into 
the line near Kerkrade to contain the 
enemy in those pillboxes lying west of the 
Wurm, he freed the regiment of the 29th 
Division that had been doing that job. 
This regiment, the 1 1 6th Infantry, minus 
one battalion already attached to the 2d 
Armored Division, Corlett awarded to 
Hobbs for continuing the link-up offensive. 

These orders issued, General Corlett 
directed that the 30th Division attack 
early the next morning, 13 October. 
Though Corlett suggested a wide end run 
southeast from the vicinity of Alsdorf, 
both General Hobbs and his regimental 
commanders demurred. Again they were 
reluctant to abandon good defensive posi- 
tions on the east and southeast lest the 
indicated German strength materialize. 
Another suggestion that the drive be 
directed south along the east bank of the 
Wurm also was abandoned for fear the 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



303 



rest of the 116th Panzer Division had 
assembled there. An attack southward 
along the west bank of the Wurm was out, 
not only because that also might encoun- 
ter the panzer division but also because it 
would involve either a river crossing or a 
frontal attack against pillboxes in the 
sector now held by the 1 1 04th Engineers. 
Only one method of effecting the link-up 
appeared feasible: to advance on a 
narrow front through the streets and 
buildings of Wuerselen. 

Assisted by attached tanks from the 2d 
Armored Division, the two fresh battal- 
ions of the 1 1 6th Infantry launched this 
attack on 13 October, but to no avail. 
Because the attack was on such a narrow 
front, the Germans were able to concen- 
trate against it the fire of an estimated 6 
to 7 battalions of light artillery, 1 or 2 
medium battalions, and at least 2 batteries 
of heavy artillery. Co-ordination between 
the 1 1 6th Infantry and the tanks of the 
2d Armored Division was slow to come. 40 
Neither on 13 October nor on the next 
two days could the 1 1 6th Infantry make 
more than snaillike progress. 

During these three days General Hobbs 
constantly exhorted the 1 1 6th Infantry 
commander, Col. Philip R. Dwyer, and 
even called on the commander of the 
regiment's parent division to help prod 
the unit forward. But more than this 
was needed to pry apart the German 

40 A tank company commander, Capt. James 
M. Burt, did more than his share to alleviate the 
situation. Though he had two tanks shot from 
under him and was wounded at the outset on 
13 October, Captain Burt personally directed 
artillery fire from exposed positions, reconnoitered 
into enemy territory, and rescued several 
wounded. "Captain Burt held the combined 
forces together," says his citation for the Medal 
of Honor, "dominating and controlling the cri- 
tical situation through the sheer force of his 
heroic example." 



defense of Wuerselen. Here was located 
the entire 60th Panzer Grenadier Regi- 
ment supported by dug-in tanks and other 
armor cleverly concealed amid the houses 
and gardens of the town. Prisoner identi- 
fications also pointed to the presence of 
the 1 1 6th Panzer Division's engineer and 
reconnaissance battalions. Even three 
dive-bombing missions and an artillery 
TOT just before a third attack on 15 
October failed to turn the trick. 41 

The First Army commander, General 
Hodges, was audibly perturbed at the 
slow pace. Indeed, both Generals Cor- 
lett and Hobbs considered they were 
"walking on eggs" in their relations with 
the army commander. "I always thought 
you ought to relieve Leland [Hobbs]," 
General Hodges told Corlett. "He hasn't 
moved an inch in four days." General 
Hobbs, Hodges observed, was always 
"either bragging or complaining." But 
General Corlett demurred. He could not 
believe that General Hodges or his staff 
realized how severe and constant had been 
the fighting to close the gap. On the 
other hand, Corlett was the first to admit 
that something had to be done to get the 
drive moving. By nightfall on 15 Octo- 
ber he had become convinced that the 
30th Division could not make it without 
broadening its effort. Ordering General 
Hobbs to make a general attack all along 
the line, General Corlett met every objec- 
tion by repeating one sentence: "I want 
to close the (Aachen) gap." 42 



41 Details of the 116th Infantry attacks are 
available in regimental journals and AAR's for 
October 1944; see also Tel Convs in 30th Div 
G-3 Jnl for the period. 

42 30th Div G-3 Jnl, 15 Oct 44; XIX Corps 
G-3 Tel Jnl, 14-16 Oct 44, ■ loaned by General 
Corlett; Ltr, Corlett to OCMH ao May 56; 
Sylvan Diary, entry of 14 Oct 44 



304 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



General Hobbs nevertheless remained 
reluctant to order the troops on his east 
wing to leave prepared positions for ex- 
posed ground, capture of which would do 
little, Hobbs believed, toward closing the 
Aachen Gap except to provide diversion 
for the southward drive. Although no 
additional troops of the ist SS Panzer 
Division had been detected, General 
Hobbs was concerned about identification 
of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division oppo- 
site the VII Corps and about reports that 
at least another panzer grenadier regiment 
of the 116th Panzer Division had arrived. 
In addition, the XIX Corps G—2 had 
been predicting cautiously that the gth 
Panzer Division, unidentified for some 
days on the British front, soon might be 
committed here. Hobbs insisted that the 
troops on his east wing should not 
debouch into the open to face these pos- 
sibilities; they should make only diver- 
sionary demonstrations. 

At last General Hobbs wore down his 
corps commander's objections. Born al- 
most of desperation, a plan for a new 
link-up attack the next day, 16 October, 
took form. 

Sealing the Gap 

Concern on the American side about 
delay in forging the last arc of the circle 
about Aachen was matched if not ex- 
ceeded by anxiety on the German side that 
the doom of Aachen was near at hand. 
Late on 15 October, for example, Field 
Marshal Model at Army Group B reit- 
erated that "the situation in Aachen may 
be considered serious." 43 

43 Rpt, OB WEST to OKW/WFSt (relaying 
rpt, A Gp B), 1800, 15 Oct 44, OB WEST KTB, 
Befehle und Meldungen. 



Among German commanders, the only 
hope of relieving Aachen rested with the 
counterattacks by the 3d Panzer Grena- 
dier and 1 1 6th Panzer Divisions. In re- 
ality, this was a fairly vain hope, as 
demonstrated on 15 October when the 
3d Panzer Grenadier Division failed to 
break the lines of the ist Division's 16th 
Infantry near Verlautenheide and Eilen- 
dorf. The Germans might have noted 
further that even though the entire 11 6th 
Panzer Division had arrived by 15 Octo- 
ber, that division had been able to accom- 
plish nothing offensively except for the 
first commitment of the 60th Panzer 
Grenadier Regiment four days earlier. 
So sure of their position were the Ameri- 
cans that they had delivered a surrender 
ultimatum to the commander of the 
Aachen garrison five days before on 10 
October and the next day had begun 
assault against the city itself. 

Though not so fatalistic, concern on 
the American side was just as genuine. 
General Hobbs had expected to reach the 
ist Division and Ravels Hill on 8 Octo- 
ber; now, seven days later, a gap of more 
than a mile still existed. In the last three 
days the 1 1 6th Infantry, in striking what 
was literally the stone wall of Wuerselen, 
had gained no more than a thousand 
yards. Obviously, if contact was to be 
made, the attackers would have to try 
some other maneuver. 

No matter the earlier objections to 
driving south along the east bank of the 
Wurm or to crossing the Wurm and 
striking south along the west bank, these 
two routes appeared now to offer the 
only solutions. General Hobbs chose 
them both. He ordered Colonel Suther- 
land's 1 1 9th Infantry to send two bat- 
talions before daylight on 16 October 



CLOSING THE CIRCLE 



305 



across the Wurm into the village of 
Kohlscheid, thence south along the west 
bank. The remaining battalion was to 
launch the main effort close along the 
east bank to seize Hill 194, just across 
the Aachen-W uerselen-Linnich highway, 
northwest of Ravels Hill (Hill 231). The 
1 1 6th Infantry and a battalion of the 
1 20th Infantry were to renew the frontal 
assault on Wuerselen, while the separate 
99th Infantry Battalion moved from corps 
reserve to back up the line. General 
Hobbs's other two regiments, the 117th 
Infantry and 120th, were to stage di- 
versionary attacks in company strength 
southeast from Alsdorf on the division's 
eastern flank. There could be no tolera- 
tion of halfway measures. This was it. 

Even as supporting engineers worked 
under mortar fire to bridge the Wurm, 
two battalions of Colonel Sutherland's 
119th Infantry forded the river at 0500, 
16 October. Within half an hour one of 
the battalions had reached the fringe of 
Kohlscheid; the other joined the mop-up 
an hour before daylight. By noon 
Kohlscheid was clear. 

The main effort by Colonel Cox's 2d 
Battalion, 1 1 9th Infantry, along the east 
bank of the Wurm did not go so easily. 
Here SS-Battalion Bucher of Kampf- 
gruppe Diefenthal and a relatively fresh 
home guard unit, the 2d Landesschuetzen 
Battalion, had extended the line south- 
west from Wuerselen. Fire from pillboxes 
occupied by these units stalled Colonel 
Cox's leading platoons short of a hilltop 
lying about halfway between the line of 
departure and the objective of Hill 194. 
The situation was disturbing until a pla- 
toon under Sergeant Holycross, who early 
in the West Wall attack had become 
something of an expert at reducing pill- 
boxes, managed to slip around to one 



flank. Urging both his men and accom- 
panying tanks forward through a driving 
rain, Sergeant Holycross once more demon- 
strated how pillboxes should be taken. 
Pinning the defenders in their shelters 
with tank fire, he worked his riflemen in 
close for the assault. Holycross and his 
men successively reduced seven pillboxes 
and captured about fifty prisoners. 

As Colonel Cox tried to push through 
a fresh company to continue the drive to 
Hill 194 and link-up, the Germans took 
the intermediate hill under such deadly 
shellfire that hopes for success of the main 
effort fell. While seeking to avoid the 
fire, the tanks became stuck in the mud. 
Without them the infantry could not 
advance. 

At about this same time the first of the 
diversionary efforts on the 30th Division's 
east wing began. Mortars and artillery 
in support of the 117th and 120th Infan- 
try Regiments maintained a smoke screen 
across the regimental fronts for half an 
hour, then opened fire to simulate a 
preparatory barrage. The Germans bit. 
Enemy artillery shifted from Colonel 
Cox's battalion west of Wuerselen to 
pummel the two east wing regiments. 
The thunder of the German fires awed 
the most seasoned fighters. 

The more guns the Germans turned 
against men of the 1 17th and 120th Infan- 
try Regiments, who were relatively secure 
in foxholes, the less they had to use against 
the exposed troops of the 119th Infantry. 
Leaving one company on the intermediate 
hill as a base of fire, the rest of Colonel 
Cox's battalion once more shook loose to 
advance methodically southward toward 
Hill 194. Since one of the battalions on 
the west bank of the Wurm had come 
abreast, Colonel Cox was assisted by fire 
into the enemy's flank. Though the 



306 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



1 1 6th Infantry's attack at Wuerselen was 
still a study in frustration in terms of 
ground gained, it assisted Colonel Cox by 
tying down that enemy strongpoint. 

Lest the Germans fathom the deception 
on the east and again turn their full 
wrath against Colonel Cox's battalion, the 
two east wing regiments in early afternoon 
launched another diversion. This time a 
company of each regiment actually at- 
tacked along the common regimental 
boundary to occupy a limited objective. 
Two platoons of the 120th Infantry gained 
the objective, though they had to wade 
through withering fire to make it. Later 
in the afternoon, as they sought to with- 
draw, only well-planned covering fires 
permitted their escape. 

The other diversionary attack by Com- 
pany E, 1 1 7th Infantry, met insurmount- 
able difficulties. First the company had 
to pass through 500 yards of woods, thick 
with enemy outposts, before reaching main 
German positions astride a slag pile and 
a railroad embankment. Here sat the 
second of the 11 6th Panzer Division's 
panzer grenadier regiments, the 156th. 

Although devastating fire from auto- 
matic weapons drove back one of Com- 
pany E's attacking platoons, the other 
struggled on almost to the railroad 
embankment. Then the panzer grenadiers 
emerged from a mine shaft in rear of the 
platoon. Only six of the Americans ever 
made their way back. 

Reorganizing those of his men who had 
withdrawn, the company commander, 
Capt. George H. Sibbald, inched forward 
in an effort to rescue his surrounded 
platoon. For more than an hour he and 



his men fought doggedly through a hail 
of small arms and shellfire. They still 
were straining forward when word came 
that the diversionary thrust had done the 
job expected of it. Captain Sibbald 
made a last attempt to reach the sur- 
rounded platoon but failed. Reluctantly, 
he gave the order to withdraw. 

Though Company E had lost about 
fifty men, the diversion had, indeed, 
helped accomplish the main objective. 
At 1544 on 16 October, the 1st Division's 
chief of staff had telephoned to say that 
men of his 18th Infantry on Ravels Hill 
could see American troops along the 
southwestern fringe of Wuerselen. They 
were men of Colonel Cox's 2d Battalion 
who had reached their objective, Hill 194. 
They were less than a thousand yards 
from the closest foxholes of the 18 th 
Infantry. 

Led by S. Sgt. Frank A. Karwell, a 
patrol left Hill 194 to make the actual 
physical contact, so long awaited. En 
route, German fire cut down Sergeant 
Karwell and prevented the main body of 
the patrol from crossing the Aachen- 
Wuerselen highway. Yet the two scouts, 
Pvts. Edward Krauss and Evan Whitis, 
continued. As they started up Ravels 
Hill, they made out figures in American 
uniforms. 

"We're from K Company," the men on 
the hill shouted. "Come on up." 

"We're from F Company," Whitis and 
Krauss replied. "Come on down." 

The men from the 1st Division talked 
faster and more persuasively. Whitis and 
Krauss went up. At 16 15, 16 October, 
they closed the Aachen Gap. 



CHAPTER XIII 

Assault on the City 



When the Aachen encirclement man- 
euver began on 8 October, the city that 
was the ultimate objective was already a 
scarred shell. Less than 20,000 of 
Aachen's prewar population of some 
165,000 had clung to their homes through 
the various vicissitudes of Nazi evacuation 
orders. As early as two months before 
D-Day in Normandy, the British had 
bombed the city; in late May British 
planes had struck again and again for 
three days at what was left. By 8 Octo- 
ber much of Aachen already was a sterile 
sea of rubble. Long before American 
tanks first had poked their snouts over 
nearby hills in mid-September, Aachen 
had learned what war is like. 1 

Few in Aachen could have doubted 
that the end was near when on 10 Octo- 
ber three Americans — 1st Lt. Cedric A. 
Lafley, 1st Lt. William Boehme, and Pfc. 
Ken Kading — approached along the 
Trierer Strasse bearing a white flag and 
a surrender ultimatum. As most were to 
learn from listening to Radio Luxembourg 
or to American public address systems, 
or else from examining leaflets which 
American artillery shot into the ruins, 
the Americans were granting the com- 
mander of the Aachen military garrison 



1 See U.S. Military Government files on 
Aachen and Condron, The Fall of Aachen. 
Unless otherwise noted, this chapter is based 
upon official records of the 1st Div (in particu- 
lar, the 26th Inf), the VII Corps, and the 1106th 
Engr (C) Gp, plus 1st Div Combat Intervs and 
FUSA AAR, Oct 44. 



twenty-four hours in which to surrender. 

The city of Aachen [the ultimatum stated 
in part] is now completely surrounded by 
American forces .... If the city is not 
promptly and completely surrendered un- 
conditionally, the American Army Ground 
and Air Forces will proceed ruthlessly with 
air and artillery bombardment to reduce it 
to submission. 2 

The military commander of Aachen at 
the time of delivery of the surrender 
ultimatum was Colonel Leyherr, one of 
the 246th Division's regimental com- 
manders. Colonel Leyherr dutifully re- 
jected the ultimatum in accord with "last 
stand" orders that had come from the 
Jovian pen of Hitler himself. 

Two days later Colonel Leyherr was 
relieved in deference to the arrival of his 
division commander, Colonel Wilck 
(246th Division). Colonel Wilck estab- 
lished his headquarters in the Palast-Hotel 
Quellenhof, a luxurious Kurhotel in Far- 
wick Park in the northern portion of the 
city. I (See Map 4.) 



For bringing Aachen to heel, the attack 
force available to General Huebner, the 
American commander, was numerically 
inferior to that Colonel Wilck had for 
defense. Forced to dispose the bulk of 
the 1st Division elsewhere on an elongated 
front and to husband one infantry bat- 
talion as a reserve, General Huebner had 
but two battalions of the 26th Infantry 



2 For a full text of the ultimatum and an ac- 
count of the experiences of those who delivered 
it, see 1st Div G-3 Per Rpt, 10 Oct 44. 



308 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Civilian Refugees Lf.avf. Aachen 



free to assault the city. Within the inner 
defenses of Aachen, Colonel Wilck had 
roughly 5,000 men. Most were from 
Wilck's own 246th Division, though some 
represented nondescript fortress units and 
125 were Aachen policemen thrust into 
the line under command of the chief of 
police. Some eighty policemen from Co- 
logne were later to slip through the gap 
at Wuerselen to join the fight. 

As Colonel Wilck must have known, 
the great American superiority was in 
armor, artillery, and planes. Although 
the Luftwaffe had begun to display recog- 
nition that a war still went on in the 



West, the German planes usually appeared 
only in small groups and at night when 
Allied aircraft were not around. As for 
armor, Colonel Wilck had no more than 
ahout five Mark IV tanks. As long as 
communications remained constant, Colo- 
nel Wilck might solicit substantial artillery 
support from outside the city; but at 
hand within the inner defenses were only 
19 105-mm. howitzers, 8 75-mm. pieces, 
and 6 150-mm. guns. 

On the American side, General Hueb- 
ner naturally desired quick reduction of 
Aachen, yet he saw ho point in a Pyrrhic 
victory. Even had he desired a bold 



ASSAULT ON THE CITY 



309 



thrust, he could permit only a cautious 
advance because the gap at Wuerselen 
still was open and from Stolberg to 
Ravels Hill his defenses were dangerously 
thin. He told the 26th Infantry com- 
mander, Col. John F. R. Seitz, not to get 
inextricably involved in Aachen. The 
regiment would have to attack, as the 
26th Infantry S-3 put it, "with one eye 
cocked over their right shoulder." Yet in 
striking from the east defenses that until 
recently had been sited against assault 
from the west and south, the regiment 
held a distinct advantage. 

During the two days when the 18th 
Infantry was driving north through Ver- 
lautenheide to Ravels Hill, the 26th In- 
fantry had been eating away at Aachen's 
eastern suburb of Rothe Erde and other- 
wise getting into position for assault on 
the city. To reduce his frontage, Colonel 
Seitz put a provisional company into the 
line on his left wing to face Aachen from 
the southeast. This company tied in with 
defenses of the 1 1 06th Engineers south of 
the city. Although the engineers were to 
pivot their right wing from time to time 
in order to maintain contact as the 26th 
Infantry advanced into the city, they were 
not equipped to make a full-blooded 
attack. 

Colonel Seitz pressed his 2d Battalion 
under Lt. Col. Derrill M. Daniel up to 
the Aachen-Cologne railroad tracks at 
Rothe Erde and prepared to send the 
battalion westward through the heart of 
Aachen. His remaining battalion, the 3d, 
under Lt. Col. John T. Corley, moved to 
jump-off positions north of Rothe Erde 
(between Rothe Erde and Haaren). 
From there Colonel Corley was to strike 
northwestward against a wilderness of 
factories lying between Aachen proper and 
Haaren and thence westward to seize 



three hills that dominate Aachen from the 
city's northern fringes. 

The bulk of this hill mass, developed as 
a big public park, is known as the Lous- 
berg. It rises to a height of 862 feet and 
casts a shadow over almost the entire 
city. The Americans were to know it as 
Observatory Hill after an observation 
tower on the crest. A lower knob on the 
southeastern slopes of the hill, crowned by 
a cathedral, is known as the Salvatorberg. 
Farther down the southeastern slopes in 
Farwick Park stands the elaborate Palast- 
Hotel Quellenhof and a municipal Kur- 
haus where, in happier days, patrons took 
the medicinal waters. 

The Assault Begins 

Soon after the surrender deadline ex- 
pired on 1 1 October, four groups of IX 
Tactical Air Command P-38's and P- 
47's (about 300 planes) opened the 
assault. On targets primarily on the 
perimeter of the city, selected by the 
infantry and marked with red smoke by 
the artillery, the planes loosed more than 
sixty-two tons of bombs. In a deafening 
cacophony, twelve battalions of VII Corps 
and 1 st Division artillery took up the 
bombardment. Division artillery hurled 
some 2,500 rounds into the city while 
corps artillery contributed 2,371 rounds, a 
total of 169 tons. Though both air and 
ground observers deemed the bombing and 
shelling accurate, patrols that tested the 
defenses in early evening found no ap- 
preciable lessening of German fire. 3 

3 In the light of cover available to the Germans 
in thick-walled building and cellars, seasoned 
observers hardly could have hoped for much 
more than a psychological effect from the 
bombardment. Airmen subsequently were to 
note "that the final capture of Aachen . . _ was 
not materially speeded by bombing . . . ." See 



310 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



After daylight the next morning, 12 
October, three groups of fighter-bombers 
returned to drop ninety-nine tons of 
bombs. Thereafter Aachen became a sec- 
ondary target. Except on the third day 
( 1 3 October ) when two groups dropped 
eleven and a half tons of bombs, airmen 
made no other sizable contribution to the 
assault. Artillery likewise resumed the 
attack on 12 October. Corps and divi- 
sion artillery expended 5,000 rounds on 
that date. 4 

Even as the air and artillery bombard- 
ment continued on 12 October, Colonel 
Corley's 3d Battalion, 26th Infantry, at- 
tacked to clear the factories lying between 
Aachen and Haaren, a preliminary to the 
main attack set to begin the next day. 
Despite the urban nature of the battle- 
field, the battalion methodically cleared 
the objective and by nightfall was poised 
for the main assault. Early on 13 Octo- 
ber Colonel Corley's battalion was to 
push northwest toward Observatory Hill 
while Colonel Daniel's 2d Battalion began 
a painstaking sweep through the heart of 
the city. 

In moving through the center of 
Aachen, Colonel Daniel's men not only 

Hq, USAF in Europe, The Contribution of Air 
Power to the Defeat of Germany, Vol. 2, Western 
Front Campaign, p. 170. 

4 Not to be excluded from the bombardment, 
the 1 1 06th Engineer Combat Group in defensive 
positions astride the heights south of Aachen 
rigged an ingenious device which the men dubbed 
the V-13. Towing an Aachen streetcar to the 
crest of a hill, they stacked the car with captured 
explosives set with a time fuse and sent it 
careening down the trolley tracks into the city. 
On the first try, the car exploded prematurely. 
A second ground to a halt at the wreckage of 
the first. After patrols had cleared the track, the 
engineers tried again. This time the car reached 
the city proper before it exploded. Whether it 
did any actual damage to German installations 
was irrelevant in view of the impish delight the 
engineers derived from it. 



had to plow through the maze of rubble 
and damaged buildings in their path but 
also to maintain contact with Colonel 
Corley's main effort against the northern 
hills. His left (south) flank resting on 
the railroad, Colonel Daniel had an at- 
tack frontage of about 2,000 yards, no 
minor assignment in view of the density of 
the buildings. Of necessity, his advance 
would be slow and plodding. 

The fighting in Colonel Daniel's sector 
quickly fell into a pattern. Dividing his 
resources into small assault teams, Colonel 
Daniel sent with each infantry platoon a 
tank or tank destroyer. These would 
keep each building under fire until the 
riflemen moved in to assault; thereupon, 
the armor would shift fire to the next 
house. Augmented by the battalion's 
light and heavy machine guns firing up 
the streets, this shelling usually drove the 
Germans into the cellars where the infan- 
try stormed them behind a barrage of 
hand grenades. Whenever the enemy 
proved particularly tenacious, the rifle- 
men used the other weapons at their 
disposal, including demolitions and flame 
throwers employed by two-man teams 
attached to each company headquarters. 
The men did not wait for actual targets 
to appear; each building, they assumed, 
was a nest of resistance until proved 
otherwise. Light artillery and mortar 
fire swept forward block by block several 
streets ahead of the infantry while heavier 
artillery pounded German communica- 
tions farther to the rear. 

To maintain contact between units, 
Colonel Daniel each day designated a series 
of check points based on street inter- 
sections and more prominent buildings. 
No unit advanced beyond a check point 
until after establishing contact with the 
adjacent unit. Each rifle company was 



ASSAULT ON THE CITY 



311 




assigned a specific zone of advance; com- 
pany commanders in turn generally desig- 
nated a street to each platoon. 

After a few bitter experiences in which 
Germans bypassed in cellars or storm 
sewers emerged in rear of the attackers, 
the riflemen soon learned that speed was 
less important than pertinacity. The 
sewers posed a special problem; each 
manhole had to be located and thoroughly 
blocked and covered. Another special 
problem stemmed from glass and other 
litter that punctured tires on jeeps used 
for evacuating wounded. Medics found 
a solution in weasels (M-29), tracked, 
armored cargo carriers. 



In the other half of the attack, Colonel 
Corley's battalion, which was driving west 
toward the high ground marked by the 
Lousbcrg (Observatory Hill), the Salva- 
torberg, and Far wick Park, found the 
route blocked on the first day, 13 October, 
by stoutly defended apartment houses. 
The men measured their gains in build- 
ings, floors, and even rooms. Someone 
said the fight was "from attic to attic and 
from sewer to sewer." 

As riflemen of Company K advanced 
down Juelicher Strasse, 20-mm. cannon 
fire from a side street drove them back. 
Two accompanying tanks remained ex- 
posed to lethal panzerfausts. The Ger- 



312 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



mans quickly knocked them out. One 
went up in flames. Disregarding enemy 
fire, a Company K squad leader, Sgt. 
Alvin R. Wise, rushed to the other tank 
to evacuate the wounded crew. The 
tank, he decided, might be recovered. 
Climbing inside, he began to spray adja- 
cent German-held buildings with fire from 
the tank's machine guns. Under this 
covering fire, two privates from Sergeant 
Wise's squad joined him in the tank. 
Though none of the three ever had been 
inside a tank before, they somehow man- 
aged to start the motor, turn the tank 
around, and drive it down the street to 
safety. 5 

Having discovered on the first day that 
some apartment buildings and air-raid 
shelters could withstand the fire of tanks 
and tank destroyers, Colonel Corley 
called for a self-propelled 155-mm. rifle. 
Early the next morning the big weapon 
proved its worth in the first test when with 
one shot it practically leveled one of the 
sturdy buildings. Impressed, the regi- 
mental commander, Colonel Seitz, sent 
one of the big rifles to support his other 
battalion as well. 6 

By nightfall of the first day Colonel 
Corley's battalion had reached the base of 
the high ground. Early on 14 October, 
when two companies combined to overrun 
a strongpoint at St. Elizabeth's Church, 
the momentum of the attack carried one 
of the companies a few hundred yards 
past the church and into Farwick Park, 
the big park surrounding the Kurhaus 
and Palast-Hotel Quellenhof. Yet this 
company's hold was tenuous at best, for 
the rest of the battalion still was occupied 
in the buildings on the approaches to the 



park. The Germans still held the build- 
ings in Farwick Park: the hotel, the 
Kurhaus, a greenhouse (Orangerie), and 
several gardening buildings. 

As early as 13 October, the drive 
toward the high ground had prompted 
the enemy commander, Colonel Wilck, to 
appeal for reinforcements. By nightfall, 
in response to this plea, the Germans on 
Observatory Hill were strengthened with 
about 150 men who were all that re- 
mained of Wilck's own 404th Regiment. 
Although Kampfgruppe Diefenthal's SS- 
Battalion Rink also tried to reach the hill, 
that battalion was sidetracked by one of 
the 30th Division's attacks near Wuer- 
selen. Colonel Wilck radioed his corps 
commander, in what was apparently a 
gross exaggeration, that American tanks 
had surrounded his command post in 
Hotel Quellenhof. 

In response to this startling message, 
the corps commander, General Koechling, 
tried throughout 14 October to disengage 
SS-Battalion Rink, reinforce the SS troops 
with a convoy of assault guns, and send 
them to Wilck's relief. Eight assault 
guns made it by early evening of 14 
October, but not until the next day was 
SS-Battalion Rink to arrive. In the mean- 
time Colone Wilck apparently had moved 
his command post to some other structure 
less immediately threatened. 7 

For his part, Colonel Corley renewed the 
attack in Farwick Park early on 15 
October with the assistance of close sup- 
port from attached chemical mortars. 
By midday his men had wrested the 
gardening buildings, the greenhouse, and 
the Kurhaus from the Germans, but the 
enemy would not budge from behind the 



5 Sergeant Wise was awarded the DSC. 

6 These guns were from Btry C, 991st FA Bn. 



7 Unless otherwise noted, German material is 
from LXXXI Corps, Kampf um Aachen. 



ASSAULT ON THE CITY 



313 



sturdy walls of Hotel Quellenhof. Colo- 
nel Corley was sending forward his 
155-mm. rifle to blast the building and 
readying his reserve company to flank it 
when the Germans launched a sharp 
counterattack. 

In strength of about one battalion, the 
counterattacking force apparently in- 
cluded remnants of both the 404th Regi- 
ment and SS-Battalion Rink. For about 
an hour the American company on the 
north edge of Farwick Park parried the 
blows, but at last the company had to 
fall back. Supported by assault guns, 
the Germans swept southward to hit the 
next company. Although forced to re- 
linquish the Kurhaus, the company held 
fast in the park surrounding it. Refusing 
to leave his post, a mortar observer called 
down shellfire on his own position. By 
1700 the sting was gone from the German 
drive. Colonel Corley could report that 
his men not only would hold their own 
but soon would resume the advance. 

The battalion did hold, but in light of 
the bludgeoning blows which the 3d Pan- 
zer Grenadier Division had begun to 
direct against the 16th Infantry's linear 
defense near Eilendorf, General Huebner 
directed postponement of further offen- 
sive moves in Aachen. He told Colonel 
Seitz to hold in place until the situation 
along the division's east wing could be 
stabilized. 

Only for a day was it necessary for the 
two battalions in Aachen to desist from 
attack. By 16 October the 16th Infantry 
had repulsed the best the 3d Panzer 
Grenadier Division could offer. The long- 
awaited juncture between 1st and 30th 
Division troops to close the Wuerselen 
gap in the Aachen encirclement further 
allayed General Huebner's concern. Yet 
General Huebner still was to hold the 



26th Infantry in check for another day 
while awaiting arrival of reinforcements 
promised for the final blow against 
Aachen by the corps commander, General 
Collins. 

Holding the Last Link 

In the meantime troops of both the 1st 
and 30th Divisions in the vicinity of 
Ravels Hill and Wuerselen fought to 
make a firm link from the tenuous patrol 
contact which Privates Whitis and Krauss 
had established between the two divisions 
late on 16 October. To prove their 
accomplishment no fluke, Whitis and 
Krauss led a patrol from the 18th Infan- 
try to 30th Division positions on Hill 194 
that night; yet German attempts to 
reopen a route into Aachen would deny 
genuine adhesion in the last link of the 
Aachen circle for several days. A com- 
pany of the separate 99th Infantry 
Battalion ( attached to the 1 1 6th Infan- 
try) discovered this fact early when 
German forays during the night of 16 
October seriously contested a roadblock 
which the infantry company established 
across the Aachen-Wuerselen highway. 8 
It was obvious that so long as the enemy's 
3d Panzer Grenadier and 11 6th Panzer 
Divisions remained in this sector, a major 
counterattack to break the encirclement 
was a logical expectation. The XIX 
Corps G-2 fed the apprehension by 
continuing to express concern over the 
whereabouts of the gth Panzer Division. 

The Germans for their part recognized 
that unless the 3d Panzer Grenadier and 
116th Panzer Divisions could break the 
encirclement soon, Aachen was lost. Cries 
of anguish from Colonel Wilck about the 

8 See 99th Inf Bn AAR, Oct 44; 30th Div 
Combat Intervs for the period. 



314 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



weakness of his encircled forces height- 
ened this concern. As commanders out- 
side the city prepared a counterattack, 
the Commander in Chief West, Rundstedt, 
found it necessary to "remind the Com- 
mander of 246th Volks Grenadier Division 
[Wilck] once more, and with the utmost 
emphasis, that [in accordance with Hit- 
ler's order] he will hold this venerable 
German city to the last man, and will, if 
necessary, allow himself to be buried 
under its ruins." 9 

This — or surrender — was the only fate 
left to Colonel Wilck. Attempts by the 
3d Panzer Grenadier and 116th Panzer 
Divisions to break the encirclement on 
both 18 and 19 October again lacked 
co-ordination. Though some serious 
fighting occurred in the vicinity of Ravels 
Hill where the 3d Panzer Grenadier Di- 
vision struck the 18th Infantry, no genuine 
likelihood of a breakthrough developed. 10 
An attempt by the Aachen garrison to 
complement these attacks from inside the 
circle got no place. By nightfall of 19 
October the German commanders had 
decided to abandon the defenders of 
Aachen to their fate. Headquarters of 
the / SS Panzer Corps was relieved; the 
3d Panzer Grenadier Division (reduced 
to half its original combat strength) pre- 
pared to pull out; and the LXXXI Corps 
resumed command of the entire sector. 11 



9 TWX, OB WEST to Army Group B, 2215, 
18 Oct 44, OB WEST KTB, Befehle und 
Meldungen. 

10 During a counterattack against Ravels Hill 
on 18 October, an 18th Infantry sergeant, Max 
Thompson, played the role of a one-man army. 
Seeing that the Germans had overrun a neigh- 
boring platoon, Sergeant Thompson used suc- 
cessively a machine gun, bazooka, automatic 
rifle, and hand grenades to halt the attack. He 
received the Medal of Honor. 

11 OB WEST KTB, 20 Oct 44. 



The Final Blow 

From the time Privates Whitis and 
Krauss first closed the Aachen Gap late on 
16 October, even the most fanatic of 
German defenders inside the city must 
have seen the end toward which they 
were headed. On that day Colonel Wilck 
had a total of 4,392 "combat effectives," 
plus 1 1 surgeons and 34 medics. 12 

As a result of a decision by the U.S. 
corps commander, General Collins, Ameri- 
can strength in Aachen increased in a 
ratio greater than the decrease in German 
strength. General Collins had decided to 
reinforce the two battalions of the 26th 
Infantry with the two battalions of tanks 
and armored infantry of the 3d Armored 
Division that had been alerted to counter- 
attack any penetration near Eilendorf 
but had not been needed there. Labeled 
Task Force Hogan, these two units were 
to join the fight on the north flank of 
Colonel Corley's battalion to fling a right 
hook against the Lousberg. The armor 
also was to occupy the village of Laurens- 
berg, two miles northwest of Aachen, key 
to that part of the West Wall which 
remnants of the 4gth Division still held 
north and northwest of the city. As an 
additional reinforcement, General Collins, 
through the auspices of the First Army, 
attached to the 1st Division a battalion of 
the 1 1 oth Infantry, brought north from 
Camp d'Elsenborn in the V Corps sector 
where the 28th Division was holding a 
relatively inactive front. General Hueb- 
ner was to use this battalion only in a 
defensive role, to cover a growing gap 
between Colonel Daniel's battalion of the 
26th Infantry in Aachen and the 11 06th 



12 For a detailed breakdown of units, see 
Heichler, The Fall of Aachen. 



ASSAULT ON THE CITY 



315 



Engineers south of the city. 13 On 18 
October as these new units moved into 
position, General Huebner authorized the 
26th Infantry to renew the assault. 

In Farwick Park, Colonel Corley's bat- 
talion set out to regain the ground lost 
there three days before, pass on to the 
Salvatorberg, and assist Task Force 
Hogan's drive on the Lousberg. One 
platoon rapidly recaptured the Kurhaus. 
While the enemy cowered in the basement 
of Hotel Quellenhof to escape American 
shelling, another platoon under 2d Lt. 
William D. Ratchford stormed into the 
hotel lobby. Hand grenade duels de- 
veloped at every entrance to the basement. 
By the time Lieutenant Ratchford had 
procured machine guns to fire into the 
basement, the Germans had had enough. 
Twenty-five of the enemy had died in the 
fighting. A search of the hotel revealed 
large caches of food and ammunition and 
on the second floor a 20-mm. antiaircraft 
gun which the Germans had carted up- 
stairs piece by piece, reassembled, and 
sited to fire into the park. 

Farwick Park and its buildings firmly in 
hand and Colonel Daniel's battalion con- 
tinuing a methodical advance through the 
center of Aachen, fall of the city now 
could be only a question of time. The 
next day (19 October) Colonel Corley's 
men seized the Salvatorberg against a 
modicum of resistance. At the same 
time Task Force Hogan was overrunning 
the awe-inspiring but ineffectively de- 
fended heights of the Lousberg. Because 
30th Division troops already had occupied 
the village of Laurensberg, General Hueb- 
ner changed the task force's second 
mission to cutting the Aachen-Laurens- 

13 VII Corps Opns Memo 107, 18 Oct, VII 
Corps Opns Memo file, Oct 44. This confirms 
oral orders issued the day before. 



berg highway a short distance south of 
the village. By nightfall of 1 9 October, a 
part of the task force had occupied a 
chateau within 200 yards of this highway. 
In the chateau the men found stacks of 
ammunition of various types and, to their 
chagrin, whiskey bottles — all empty — 
scattered about the grounds. 14 

Reduction of the Salvatorberg and the 
Lousberg coincided with the enemy de- 
cision to abandon attempts to break the 
encirclement of Aachen. Within the 
city, Colonel Wilck during the afternoon 
of 19 October issued an order of the day: 

The defenders of Aachen will prepare for 
their last battle. Constricted to the smallest 
possible space, we shall fight to the last man, 
the last shell, the last bullet, in accordance 
with the Fuehrer's orders. 

In the face of the contemptible, despicable 
treason committed by certain individuals, 
I expect each and every defender of the 
venerable Imperial City of Aachen to do his 
duty to the end, in fulfillment of our Oath 
to the Flag. I expect courage and determi- 
nation to hold out. 

Long live the Fuehrer and our beloved 
Fatherland! 15 

Exhortations actually would do little to 
forestall the end. On 19 and 20 October 
resistance rapidly crumbled. Even though 
the battalion of the 1 1 oth Infantry was 
committed officially only to a defensive 
role, that unit joined Colonel Daniel's 
battalion in eviscerating the city. Already 
Colonel Daniel's men had seized the main 
railroad station and were nearing a rail- 
way line leading north to Laurensberg 
and Geilenkirchen and separating the 
main part of Aachen from western resi- 

14 A detailed account of Task Force Hogan's 
role in the battle of Aachen may be found in 1st 
Division Combat Interview file, October 1944. 

15 TWX, OB WEST to OKW/WFSt, 1740, 
2a Oct 44, OB WEST KTB, Befehle und 
Meldungen. 



316 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



dential sectors. After collapse of a strong- 
point in the Technical University in the 
northwestern corner of the city, the 
battalion reached the western railroad 
tracks as night came on 20 October. 
The few Germans remaining were cor- 
ralled in the western and southwestern 
suburbs. 

On 2i October, Colonel Corley's bat- 
talion approached a big air-raid bunker 
at the northern end of Lousberg Strasse. 
Colonel Corley called for his attached 
155-mm. rifle. To the attackers, this 
was just another building that had to be 
reduced. They had no way of knowing 
that here was the cerebellum of the 
Aachen defense, the headquarters of Colo- 
nel Wilck. 

From this bunker, Colonel Wilck and 
his staff had been exercising their pen- 
chant for the melodramatic. "All forces 
are committed in the final struggle!" 
"Confined to the smallest area, the last 
defenders of Aachen are embroiled in their 
final battle!" "The last defenders of 
Aachen, mindful of their beloved German 
homeland, with firm confidence in our 
final victory, donate Reichsmark 10,468.00 
to the Winterhilfswerk [Winter Relief] 
Project. We shall fight on. Long live 
the Fuehrer!" Such was the tenor of 
Colonel Wilck' s last messages to his su- 
periors on the outside. 

As Colonel Corley called for his 155- 
mm. rifle, Colonel Wilck, despite his 
exhortations, was ready to end the fight. 
But how to surrender? Two Germans 
who had tried to leave the bunker under 
a white flag had been shot down in the 
confusion of the battle. 

The solution appeared to lie among 
some thirty American prisoners the Ger- 
mans were holding. From the prisoners 
they solicited volunteers to arrange the 



surrender. Two men from the 1 1 06th 
Engineers who had been captured early 
in the Aachen fighting responded. They 
were S. Sgt. Ewart M. Padgett and Pfc. 
James B. Haswell. 

While Colonel Wilck by radio renewed 
his "unshakable faith in our right and 
our victory" and again paid obeisance to 
the Fuehrer, Haswell and Padgett stepped 
from the bunker. Small arms fire cracked 
about them. Bearing a white flag, the 
two men dashed into the middle of Lous- 
berg Strasse. As they waved the flag 
frantically, the firing died down. An 
American rifleman leaned from a nearby 
window to motion the two men forward. 
Sergeant Padgett beckoned to two Ger- 
man officers behind him to follow. 

A company commander returned with 
Haswell, Padgett, and the Germans. 
Their luggage already packed, Colonel 
Wilck and his coterie were ready to 
depart. Before they left, Sergeant Pad- 
gett nabbed the prize souvenir of the 
occasion, the colonel's pistol. 16 

At Colonel Corley's headquarters, the 
assistant division commander, Brig. Gen. 
George A. Taylor, accepted the German 
surrender. At 1205 on 21 October, it 
was over. 17 Because Colonel Wilck's in- 
ternal communications had broken down, 
he had definite knowledge of the where- 
abouts of only some 500 of his soldiers. 
By nightfall, as American troops swept to 
every corner of the city, they had rounded 
up some 1,600 men, among them a bat- 
talion adjutant to whom Lieutenants 

10 Sergeant Padgett has provided a lucid 
account of his experiences. FUSA G-2 Per Rpt 
154, 11 Nov 44, copy in 1st Div Combat Interv 
file. 

17 The German radio operator sent a final 
homespun message at 1238: "We now sign off, 
with regards to our buddies and the folks back 
home." 



ASSAULT ON THE CITY 



317 



mm 



Colonel Wilck and his headquarters group after their surrender. 



Laficy and Boehnie had delivered the 
surrender ultimatum eleven days earlier. 

What Aachen Cost 

The battle of Aachen was over. 
Though the Germans had failed to pre- 
vent encirclement and had held out within 
the city only five days after encirclement, 
the true measure of the battle from their 
standpoint was that they had imposed a 
telling, though costly, delay. The 30th 
Division listed 6,000 prisoners and the 
1st Division another 5,637, including 



3,473 taken within the city. 18 The way 
in which German units were squandered 
without major reward was indicated by 
the fact that an equivalent of twenty 
battalions had been used in counterattack 
roles against the 30th Division, yet in 
only one or two cases had any counter- 
attack involved more than two reinforced 
infantry battalions. A never-ending com- 
pulsion to Stave off recurring crises had 
sucked the enemy's unite into the abyss of 
piecemeal commitment. 

ls The Germans admitted but 5,100 casualties 
of all types. 



318 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



On the American side, the 30th Divi- 
sion and attached troops, since the start 
of the West Wall campaign on 2 October, 
had lost some 3,000 men. Indicative of 
1st Division casualties was a figure of 498 
incurred by the two battalions of the 
26th Infantry. Of these, 75 were killed 
and 9 missing. 18 

A paradox of the battle, particularly in 
the sector of the 30th Division, was that 
it had involved primarily infantry units, 
yet it had assumed the complexion of an 
armored duel. Both sides had tank sup- 
port, and few units, German or American, 
had experienced much success unless 
supporting tanks were on hand. By 
their own count, the Germans lost 45 
tanks.*" In one two-day period (9-10 
October) the 30th Division claimed 20 
German tanks: 12 destroyed by lojj-mm. 
howitzers, 5 by supporting tank; and tank 
destroyers, and 3 by bazookas. 

By way of an apologia for failure at 
Aachen, the Germans pointed to un- 
challenged American air superiority and 
to the ratio between American and Ger- 
man artillery in the Aachen sector. They 
estimated American batteries at 86 and 
reported opposing German batteries at 6g. 
The average daily expenditure of rounds 
by U.S. artillery, they estimated, was 
9,300; by German artillery, 4,f ) oo." 1 



19 The Germans estimated total American 
losses ai 13,320. 

211 The 30th Division alone claimed to have 
destroyed 70. 

21 LXXX1 Corps, Art.-Lage u. Arl.-Clieder- 
ungen, 11 Oct-tB Dec 44. On 17 October the 
Germans had narrowed the LXXXI Corps sector 
by inserting the XI! SS Corps north of the 
LXXXl Corps, establishing the boundary be- 
tween the 4gtk and 183d Divisions as the new 
corps boundary. Artillery in the XII SS Corps 
was not included in the estimate of batteries in 
the Aachen sector. 




Aachen Ml nster, popularly known as 
I fie Charlemagne Cathedral. 

The estimate of American batteries was 
no more than a slight exaggeration. 
Counting regimental cannon companies, 
organic artillery of the ist and 30th 
Divisions totaled 30 batteries. Exclusive 
of tank and tank destroyer pieces, the two 
divisions possessed n batteries of at- 
tached artillery. The two corps (VII and 
XIX) had at least 33 more batteries 
under direct corps control. Not counting 
artillery under control either of the First 
Army or of adjacent divisions, the Ameri- 
cans had a minimum of 74 batteries 
capable of firing upon Aachen and its 
environs. 22 

On 19 October the Germans fired 
leaflets into the 30th Division's zone. 
"The Ninth Army under General Simp- 
son," the leaflets read, "[is] to relieve 

11 Arty AARs of VII and XIX Corps, ist and 
30th Divs, Oct 44. 



ASSAULT ON THE CITY 



319 




View of Ruined Aachen 



you on the 20th and 21st of October. 1 ' 
The Germans were only one day off. 
At noon on 22 October, General Simpson's 
Ninth Army headquarters moved from 
Luxembourg to assume control of the 
XIX Corps, The boundary between the 
First and Ninth Armies was to follow the 
existing boundary between the VII and 
XIX Corps. 

As the XIX Corps had fought its last 
fight under the aegis of the First Army, 
so had the corps commander, General 
Corlett, fought his last fight with the 
XIX Corps. His health already severely 
strained during previous combat service 



in the Pacific, General Corlett had for the 
last few months found the rigor of his 
duties increasingly trying. On 18 Octo- 
ber General Bradley relieved him of his 
command; shortly thereafter, General 
Corlett left for the United States on 
recuperation leave. He departed with the 
understanding that General Eisenhower 
wanted him to return to the theater when 
he was physically able. 23 



23 Critics of General Corlett's West Wall cam- 
paign have intimated that he was relieved 
because General Hodges was dissatisfied with 
methods of the XIX Corps in sealing the Aachen 
Gap, Sec XIX Corps Combat Inter vs., Oct 44. 



320 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



General Corlett's successor was a 
former artillery commander of the 30th 
Division, Maj. Gen. Raymond S. McLain. 
General McLain had begun his army 
career when he enlisted in the Oklahoma 
National Guard. During the months 
preceding his assumption of command of 
the XIX Corps, he had made an enviable 
record as commander of the Third Army's 
90th Division. 24 

If this was the case, it was diametrically opposite 
to General Eisenhower's view as expressed in a 
letter to the Chief of Staff, General Marshall, 
dated 20 October 1944. Eisenhower wrote that 
he was relieving Gorlett to send him home for 
sixty days "for physical check-up and rest. He 
has performed most effectively throughout the 
campaign .... I should like for him to get a 
chance for real recreation and then return here 
sometime within the allotted period. I regard 
him as an outstanding corps commander." 
Eisenhower to Marshall, S-63258, Pogue files. 
See also, Corlett to OGMH, 2 Sep 53, and 20 
May 56. 

24 In World War I, General McLain com- 
manded a machine gun company in the Cham- 
pagne and Meuse-Argonne Campaigns. In 
World War II, his early combat experience was 
as artillery commander with the 45 th Division 
in Sicily. In July 1944, after the 90th Division 
had proved a disappointment in its first combat 
(see [Roland G. Ruppenthal] Utah Beach to 
Cherbourg, Washington, 1947, and Blumenson, 
Breakout and Pursuit), General McLain had 
assumed command of that division. 



As the fighting died in Aachen, the 
German commander, Schwerin, who in 
September had tried to spare the city, 
would have been horrified to see that 
once-proud coronation capital. "The city 
is as dead as a Roman ruin," wrote an 
American observer, "but unlike a ruin it 
has none of the grace of gradual decay 
. . . . Burst sewers, broken gas mains 
and dead animals have raised an almost 
overpowering smell in many parts of the 
city. The streets are paved with shat- 
tered glass; telephone, electric light and 
trolley cables are dangling and netted 
together everywhere, and in many places 
wrecked cars, trucks, armored vehicles 
and guns litter the streets . . . ." 25 

The ironic truth of a prophecy which 
Hitler had made early in his career was 
nowhere more evident than on 2 1 October 
1944 in Aachen, the first large German 
city lost in the war: 

Give me five years and you will not 
recognize Germany again, 

— Adolf Hitler 



25 City of Aachen, Annex 3 to VII Corps G-2 
Per Rpt 138, 21 Oct, VII Corps G-3 Jnl file, 
2 1-22 Oct 44. 



PART FOUR 



The Roer River Dams 



CHAPTER XIV 

The First Attack on Schmidt 



Looking east from the little German 
border villages southeast of Aachen, the 
Huertgen Forest is a seemingly impene- 
trable mass, a vast, undulating, blackish- 
green ocean stretching as far as the eye 
can see. Upon entering the forest, you 
want to drop things behind to mark your 
path, as Hansel and Gretel did with their 
bread crumbs. 

By the end of September 1944 the 60th 
Infantry of General Craig's 9th Division 
already had tested the forest, encountered 
small but resolute German units, and 
drawn back bloodied. Seeking to pass 
directly through the woods to capture 
the Huertgen-Kleinhau road net along 
ridge-top clearings that characterize the 
eastern half of the forest, one regiment 
had proved no match for an enemy utiliz- 
ing the defensive potentialities of the 
forest to advantage. Even an attempt to 
gain a compromise objective had failed. 
This was the try at turning south through 
Deadman's Moor (the Todten Bruch) to 
link with another regiment which had 
stalled half in, half out, of the West Wall 
in th e Monschau Corridor. (See Map 

As October opened and First Army's 
General Hodges prepared to clear up un- 
finished business before renewing a general 
offensive, the Huertgen Forest still stood 
unconquered athwart the path to the 
Roer River of the right wing of General 
Collins' VII Corps. It could not be 
wished away. To General Collins, who 



had served in the Meuse-Argonne cam- 
paign of World War I, the Huertgen 
Forest was a logical spot for concealed 
assembly and counterattack into the right 
flank of the VII Corps, much as the 
Argonne Forest had posed a threat to the 
American left flank twenty-six years be- 
fore. 1 As had American commanders in 
the Argonne in October 1918, those in 
October 1944 believed they might neu- 
tralize the forest facing them by seizing 
heights along the eastern edge. 

Beyond this negative factor of neutral- 
izing the forest against enemy concentra- 
tion, the prospect of conquering the forest 
posed several positive advantages. Most 
of these centered about the crossroads 
village of Schmidt, which sits astride one 
of the highest ridge tops west of the Roer 
in a clearing on the southeastern fringe of 
the forest. En route to Schmidt, an at- 
tacker might pave the way for subsequent 
capture of the Huertgen-Kleinhau road 
net leading northeast to Dueren by 
occupying the villages of Germeter and 
Vossenack. From Vossenack, a move two 
miles to the southeast across the deep 
gorge of the little Kail River leads to 
Schmidt. Occupying this crossroads vil- 
lage would expose from the rear the 
stubborn pillbox defenses in the Monschau 
Corridor that had halted the extreme 
right wing of the VII Corps in September. 
With both Schmidt and the Monschau 



1 See Interv with Collins, 25 Jan 54. 



324 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 




Corridor in hand, the VII Corps might 
peg its right flank firmly along the upper 
reaches of the Roer from Schmidt to the 
headwaters at Monschau. Another part 
of the front would have been put in order 
in preparation for the main drive across 
the Roer to the Rhine. 

Having cut the 9th Division's frontage 
in half since the mid-September fighting, 
General Collins told General Craig to 
regroup the division for a stronger at- 
tempt to penetrate the forest. The 
objective he assigned was Schmidt. 2 



2 VII Corps Opns Memo 101, 1 Oct, confirm- 
ing oral orders of 30 Sep, VII Corps Opns Memo 
file, Oct 44. 



The Neglected Objective 

As the 9th Division in early October 
prepared to attack, few within the Ameri- 
can command appeared to appreciate the 
critical importance of another objective 
which capture of Schmidt might expose. 
This was a multiple objective, a series of 
seven dams near the headwaters of the 
Roer. Though three of the seven are on 
tributaries of the Roer, all came to be 
known collectively as the Roer River 
Dams. (Map 5) 

The two principal dams are the Urft 
and the Schwammenauel. Constructed 
just after the turn of the century on the 
Urft River between Gemuend and Ruhr- 



THE FIRST ATTACK ON SCHMIDT 



325 



Dam 



berg, the Urft Dam is capable of im- 
pounding approximately 42,000 acrc-fcct 
of water. Built in the mid-thirties near 
Hasenfeld, about two miles downhill from 
Schmidt, the Schwammcnauel Dam cre- 
ates a reservoir encompassing about 
81,000 acre-feet. The Schwammcnauel is 
of earth construction with a concrete 
core. Both the principal dams were de- 
signed for controlling the Roer River and 
providing hydroelectric power for Ducrcn 
and other cities downstream to the north. 3 



3 A theory prevalent among Americans that 
the Schwammcnauel Dam was constructed with 
an eye toward augmenting the West Wall de- 
fenses cannot be supported. 



Lesser dams downstream from the 
Schwammcnauel are at Heimbach and 
Obermaubach. These were designed pri- 
marily to create equalizing basins in 
accordance with industrial needs farther 
downstream. Of the other three dams, 
the Paulushof, near the confluence of the 
Roer and the Urft at Ruhrbcrg, was 
designed primarily to regulate water levels 
at the headwaters of the Schwammenauel 
reservoir; the Kali Valley Dam, on the 
upper reaches of the Kail River near 
Lammcrsdorf, has only a small capacity; 
and the Drcilacndcrbach Dam creates the 
Hauptbecken Reservoir near Roetgen on 
the headwaters of the Vicht River. The 



326 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Dreilaenderbach Dam was in American 
hands before the gth Division's October 
attack. 4 

Value of the Roer River Dams to Ger- 
man defense was outlined several days 
before the gth Division's October attack 
by the division G-2, Maj. Jack A. Hous- 
ton. "Bank overflows and destructive 
flood waves," Major Houston concluded, 
"can be produced [on the Roer River] by 
regulating the discharge from the various 
dams. By demolition of some of them 
great destructive waves can be produced 
which would destroy everything in the 
populated industrial valley [of the Roer] 
as far as the Meuse [Maas] and into 
Holland." 5 The intimation was fairly 
obvious: should the Allies cross the Roer 
downstream from the dams, the Germans 
could release the impounded waters to 
produce a flood that would demolish 
tactical bridges and isolate any force east 
of the Roer. Allied troops beyond the 
river would be exposed to destruction in 
detail by German reserves. 



4 One of the better contemporary studies of the 
Roer River Dams is to be found in Annex 2 to 
5th Armd Div G-2 Per Rpt 85, 24 Oct, 5th 
Armd Div G-2 file, Oct 44. See also FUSA Rpt 
of Opns, Vol. 1, p. 95; VII Corps Engrs, Study 
of Possible Flooding of the Rur (Roer) River, 
17 Nov, 1 st Div G-2 Jnl file, 19-20 Nov 44. 

5 Annex 1 to 9th Div G-2 Per Rpt 78, 2 Oct, 
9th Div G-2 file, Oct 44. The first recorded 
references to the dams were contained in reports 
by Belgian officers on 23 and 30 September. See 
Memo to Col Dickson (G-2 FUSA), 23 Sep, 
FUSA G-2 Tac Jnl file, Sep 44; Memo to CofS 
from 1st Div, 23 Sep, VII Corps G-3 file, Sep 44. 
FUSA repeated the report of 30 Sep in its G-2 
Per Rpt 113, 1 Oct, FUSA G-2 Tac Jnl file, 
1-3 Oct 44. Existence of the dams and reser- 
voirs could have been no secret, for the 1:25,000 
maps in use at the time showed most of them in 
detail. On 6 October a Belgian agent sent 
FUSA a report on the Urft Dam that was 
inexplicably labeled Secret, yet the agent's source 
was a French edition of Baedeker's Rhineland. 



Despite this hazard, the Roer River 
Dams were not a formal objective' of the 
9th Division's October attack. Indeed, 
as the division prepared to attack, advisers 
to the First Army commander minimized 
the defensive value of any floods which 
might be produced. On 3 October, the 
day after the 9th Division's appraisal 
appeared, the First Army's intelligence 
section believed that if "all of the dams" 
in the entire First Army sector were 
blown, "they would cause at the most 
local floodings for about 5 days counted 
from the moment the dam was blown 
until all the water had receded." 7 Two 
days later the First Army engineer 
amended this view somewhat with the 
opinion that "widespread flooding" might 
result. 8 But not for a long time were 
American commanders to appreciate the 
true value of the dams to the Germans. 
One explanation might rest in the fact 
that during October all reservoirs in the 
system were "considerably drawn down, 
in amount estimated at 30-50 percent of 
total capacity." 9 Yet as late as 28 No- 
vember, after water level in the reservoirs 
had risen as high as two thirds of capacity, 
the First Army G-2 still could express 
the theory that "the economic importance 
of the dams to life in the Rhenish cities 

See VII Corps and 9th Div FO's for this 
attack; also Notes for Chief of Staff, 22 and 23 
Sep 44, in VII Corps G-3 file, 23 Sep 44, which 
relate plans and objectives of the 9th Division 
attack as discussed by Generals Collins and 
Craig. The dams are not mentioned. See also, 
Ltr, Craig to OCMH, 31 Aug 53. 

7 Record of tel conv between G-2, MASTER 
Command, and G-2 FUSA (Tac), 3 Oct, 
FUSA G-2 Tac Jnl file, 1-3 Oct 44. 

8 Msg, FUSA Engr to VII Corps Engr, 5 Oct, 
VII Corps G-3 file, 5 Oct 44. See also FUSA 
G-2 Estimate 31, 8 Oct, FUSA G-2 Tac file, 
8-9 Oct 44. 

9 Ltr, FUSA to 12th A Gp, 29 Oct, FUSA 
G-3 Ltrs and Inds file, Oct 44. 



THE FIRST ATTACK ON SCHMIDT 



327 



could prevent the enemy blowing them up 
as part of a 'drowned earth' policy." 10 

Closer to reality was an early appraisal 
by the XIX Corps engineer. Aware that 
his corps eventually was to cross the Roer 
downstream from the dams near Juelich, 
where banks of the river are low, the XIX 
Corps engineer warned his corps com- 
mander on 8 October. "If one or all 
dams were blown," he estimated, "a flood 
would occur in the channel of the Roer 
River that would reach approximately 
1,500 feet in width and 3 feet or more 
deep across the entire corps front . . . . 
The flood would probably last from one 
to three weeks." 11 

Unfortunately, the XIX Corps en- 
gineer went on to dismiss the subject 
because all the dams were in the VII 
Corps zone. The VII Corps, he noted, 
"could be requested to capture and pre- 
vent destruction although they can be 
presumed to do so as their area is affected 
also." 12 On the contrary, General Col- 
lins and the VII Corps at this time were 
engrossed in plans to subdue Aachen and 
to send the gth Division through the 
Huertgen Forest. They paid scant at- 
tention to an objective like the dams that 
did not lie along the planned route to the 
Roer and the Rhine. 13 

General Eisenhower's headquarters, 
SHAEF, remained aloof from the subject 
of the dams until 20 October, several 

10 FUSA G-2 Per Rpt 171, as cited in VII 
Corps G-2 Per Rpt 164, 28 Nov, FUSA G-2 
Tac Jnl file, 29 Nov 44. 

"Memo, XIX Corps Engr for XIX Corps 
G-3, 8 Oct, XIX Corps G-3 Jnl file, 12 Oct 44. 

12 Ibid. 

13 Planning for an offensive by the V Corps to 
complement a VII Corps push to the Rhine was 
in progress at this time, though it subsequently 
was canceled. Like the VII Corps, the V Corps 
made no plans to seize the dams. See V Corps 
Operations in the ETO, pp. 272-278. 



days after the 9th Division's Huertgen 
Forest attack had ended. On that date 
the SHAEF G-2 repeated and enlarged 
upon information originally obtained by 
the V Corps from a German prisoner. 
In Dueren, the prisoner said, a persistent 
ringing of the city's church bells was to 
mean the dams had been blown. The 
people were to evacuate the city, because 
the flood there would reach a depth of 
almost twenty feet. Turning to photo- 
graphic files, SHAEF noted that air cover 
of all dams except the Urft had existed 
since 10 September. Allied air officials, 
SHAEF remarked, were "prepared to 
study [the] question of [air] attack." 14 

Like the First Army, General Bradley's 
headquarters, the 12th Army Group, mini- 
mized the possible effects of a flood. Like 
SHAEF, the 12th Army Group in Octo- 
ber looked upon the dams as "an Air 
Force matter." 15 

A realistic view toward the Roer River 
Dams was slow to come. All through 
October and November, the First Army 
and, in later stages, the Ninth Army were 
to fight to build up along the west bank 
of the Roer downstream from the dams 
without making any specific effort to 
capture the dams. Yet neither army 
could cross the Roer until the dams were 
either captured or destroyed. 

Just how long it took the American 
command to adopt a realistic attitude 
toward the dams is apparent only from 
the denouement of First Army operations 
through October and November and into 
December. As one considers the unfold- 



14 Msg, SHAEF (MAIN) to 12th A Gp, 20 
Oct, FUSA G-2 Tac Jnl file, 20-21 Oct 44. 

13 12th A Gp Weekly Intel Summaries 11 and 
12 for weeks ending 21 and 28 Oct, dtd 22 and 
29 Oct, respectively, 12th A Gp G-2 AAR, Oct 
44. 



328 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



ing of operations in the Huertgen Forest 
and farther north amid the villages of the 
Roer plain, it becomes increasingly evident 
what a predominant role these dams came 
to play in German thinking and how 
determined German defense of the region 
of the dams had to become before Ameri- 
can commanders heeded the danger. 16 

What happened in February 1945 as 
troops of the First Army at last neared the 
dams and the Germans attempted in panic 
to blow them was a flood in the valley of 
the Roer lasting one day short of two 
weeks. 17 This the Germans accomplished 
with only partial destruction of but one 
dam, the Schwammenauel. 

Objective: Schmidt 

Had the Roer River Dams been an 
objective of the 9th Division's October 
attack, it is logical to assume that some 
extraordinary effort might have been made 
to reinforce the division. As it was, the 
division commander, General Craig, had a 
problem of concentrating enough strength 
to make a genuine difference between the 
projected attack and the one-regiment 
thrust which the 60th Infantry had 
launched without success in September. 

Through September the 9th Division 
had operated on a front stretching from 
Schevenhuette, near Stolberg, south 
through the Huertgen Forest and the 
Monschau Corridor to the Hoefen-Alzen 
ridge, southeast of Monschau, a distance 
of almost twenty miles. Even after entry 
of the Ninth Army into the line in Luxem- 
bourg enabled the First Army to adjust its 
corps frontages, the 9th Division still 



covered a front of nine miles. One regi- 
ment, the 47 th Infantry, had to remain on 
the defensive at Schevenhuette. 
This left but two regiments free 



(Map 6) 
to attack: 



the 39th Infantry, which had been relieved 
in the Monschau Corridor by the 4th 
Cavalry Group, and the 60th Infantry. 
Even this concentration would have been 
impossible had not an attached unit, the 
298th Engineer Combat Battalion, held 
much of the Huertgen Forest front with 
roadblocks at intervals between Scheven- 
huette and Deadman's Moor (Todten 
Bruch). 

Hope for success of the 9th Division's 
attack obviously rested less with American 
strength than an expectation of German 
weakness. For all the sacrifices the 
Huertgen Forest already had exacted 
from the 60th Infantry, no one yet had 
accorded any particular respect to the 
enemy units defending there. The divi- 
sion G-2, Major Houston, estimated that 
German strength opposite the entire nine- 
mile front totaled no more than 5,000 men 
representing some fourteen separate home 
guard and replacement battalions. These, 
Major Houston believed, possessed no 
definite regimental organization and prob- 
ably were no more than loosely and 
ineffectively knit together under an ersatz 
division staff. Although German leader- 
ship was for the most part excellent, Major 
Houston remarked, morale was "char- 
acteristically low." 18 



10 See Interv with Col Akers, 11 Jun 56. 

17 See The Last Offensive, a volume in prepa- 
ration in the series UNITED STATES ARMY 
IN WORLD WAR II. 



18 Intel Annex to 9th Div FO 39, 3 Oct, 9th 
Div AAR, Oct 44. Unless otherwise noted, this 
account is based upon official unit records and 
a series of detailed combat interviews at company 
and battalion level. An accurate presentation at 
a small unit level is available in an unpublished 
manuscript by Maj. Henry P. Halsell, Huertgen 
Forest and the Roer River Dams, copy in 
OCMH files through courtesy of Major Halsell. 



330 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



Basically, American intelligence esti- 
mates were correct. What they failed to 
remark was that in this kind of terrain 
high-level organization and even morale 
might not count for much. 

Until the day after General Collins 
directed a new attack, German units 
opposite the gth Division had represented 
two divisions, the 275th and 353d Infantry 
Divisions. During the battle of the Stol- 
berg Corridor in mid-September, the 
353d Division had been little more than a 
headquarters attached to the LXXXI 
Corps; but subsequently the division had 
been shifted into the Huertgen Forest, 
shored up with conglomerate units, and 
transferred to the neighboring LXXIV 
Corps (General Straube). In the mean- 
time, the 275th Division had been falling 
back in front of the XIX U.S. Corps 
from Maastricht to the West Wall. After 
arrival of a new division to occupy the 
West Wall in front of the XIX Corps, the 
LXXXI Corps commander had trans- 
ferred the remnants of the 275th Division 
into the forest near Schevenhuette. So 
that defense of the forest might not be 
weakened by a corps boundary, the 
Seventh Army commander, General 
Brandenberger, had transferred the 275th 
Division in place to the LXXIV Corps. 
During the latter days of September, both 
divisions had pursued the laborious task of 
rebuilding. 

On 1 October, as the 9th Division 
began to prepare its attack, the com- 
mander of the 275th Division, General 
Schmidt, unexpectedly received orders to 
absorb into his division both the troops 
and the sector of the 353d Division. 
Headquarters and noncombatants of the 
353d Division were disengaged. A man 
who bore the same name as the gth Divi- 



sion's objective now became lord of the 
entire Huertgen Forest. 19 

The total of General Schmidt's infantry 
combat effectives when he first had moved 
into the Huertgen Forest was roughly 
800. By 3 October, when absorption of 
the 353d Division was complete, he could 
point to a combat strength of 5,000, plus 
an additional 1,500 men in headquarters 
and service, units. As the 9th Division 
G-2 had predicted, regimental organiza- 
tion was shaky; nevertheless, the front 
had been formally broken down into three 
regimental sectors. In the north was the 
275th Division's organic gB^th Regiment; 
in the center, a variety of units from the 
353d Division which were to be designated 
the g85th Infantry Regiment; and in the 
south, where the 9th Division was to 
strike, a former component of the 353d 
Division labeled the 253d Regiment. This 
regiment commanded a colorful array of 
unrelated units composed of replacements, 
Landesschuetzen, a few combat veterans, 
and others. 

In division reserve, General Schmidt 
had a replacement battalion numbering 
about 200 men and the 275th Fusilier 
Battalion with about 400 men. Also 
available but currently engaged in con- 
structing defenses near Dueren were about 
600 men under one of the division's 
organic regiments, the 983^. 

For artillery support, General Schmidt 
had only 13 105-mm. howitzers, 1 210- 
mm. howitzer, and 6 assault guns. Other 



19 The basic source for the German side of 
this action is MS # B-810, Generalleutnant Hans 
Schmidt, Kaempfe im Rheinland 275. Infan- 
terie Division. Additional details may be found 
in Lucian Heichler, The First Battle of the 
Huertgen Forest, a manuscript prepared to com- 
plement this volume and filed in OCMH. 



THE FIRST ATTACK ON SCHMIDT 



331 



than bazookas and panzerfausts, the as- 
sault guns were the only weapons available 
for antitank defense. 

Other weapons were almost as diverse 
as the men who manned them. Though 
machine guns and mortars were of various 
types, they had enough of neither. Even 
rifles were of various types and makes, 
a fact which further complicated an am- 
munition supply situation already acute. 
All weapons, particularly artillery pieces, 
had to practice stringent ammunition 
economy, though presence in the division 
sector of an adequately supplied anti- 
aircraft artillery regiment was to alleviate 
the artillery situation somewhat. 

During the first week of October, the 
Division worked night and day on 
defensive positions. Mainly these were 
field fortifications — log bunkers, foxholes, 
connecting trenches, wire entanglements, 
mine fields, and roadblocks. The line 
followed generally the Rother Weh and 
Weisser Weh Creeks which bisect the 
approximate center of the forest, though 
some strong outposts were established 
west of the creek beds. 

Like the Americans, General Schmidt 
at this stage apparently took no special 
cognizance of the Roer River Dams. His 
mission, as he interpreted it, was to 
repulse the Americans inside the Huertgen 
Forest in order to deny access to the high 
clearings near the Roer which overlook 
flatlands leading to the Rhine. If he 
considered any feature within his sector 
more important than the others, it was the 
Huertgen-Kleinhau road net which leads 
to Dueren. Paradoxically, neither adver- 
sary in the first big fight to occur in the 
vicinity of the Roer River Dams appar- 
ently was thinking in terms of this 
important objective. 



To the First Clearing 

The American commander, General 
Craig, directed attack from positions deep 
in the forest about a mile west of the 
Weisser Weh Creek. Ordering his two 
regiments to move abreast, he designated 
as first objectives the village of Germeter 
and settlements of Wittscheidt and 
Richelskaul, which lie north and south, 
respectively, of Germeter. Capture of 
these points would sever the main Mon- 
schau-Huertgen-Dueren highway and 
also provide egress from the forest into the 
first big clearing along the projected route 
to Schmidt. 

Attacking toward Wittscheidt and 
Germeter, the 39th Infantry on the left 
wing also was to guard against counter- 
attack from the north from the direction 
of Huertgen. After occupying the first 
objectives, the 39th Infantry was to push 
on to Vossenack and subsequently south- 
east across the Kail River gorge to 
Schmidt. Upon seizure of Richelskaul, 
the 60th Infantry on the right wing was 
to turn south to occupy high ground 
about two forest-cloaked road junctions. 
Control of these points would block enemy 
movement against the division's penetra- 
tion from the direction of the Monschau 
Corridor and open the way for a subse- 
quent advance into the flank of the 
corridor. 

As demonstrated in later fighting over 
this same terrain, the weak point in Gen- 
eral Craig's plan lay in an inability to 
protect the left (northern and north- 
eastern) flank once the 39th Infantry left 
Germeter for Vossenack and subsequently 
for Schmidt. This flank would stretch 
eventually to at least six miles. To help 
protect it, General Craig would have at 



332 



THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN 



best but one battalion in division reserve. 
This probably would be a battalion of 
the 6oth Infantry which on the first day 
was to feign attack eastward from a 
position near Jaegerhaus, a forester's lodge 
southwest of Deadman's Moor (Todten 
Bruch ) . 

If General Craig found any consolation 
in regard to this situation, it would have 
been in an erroneous belief which the di- 
vision G—2 expressed two days after the 
attack began. "It is felt," the G—2 said, 
"that should a major breakthrough occur, 
or should several penetrations occur, the 
enemy will begin a withdrawal to the 
Rhine River, abandoning his Siegfried 
Line." 20 It was late in the West Wall 
fighting for this